Comedy should always get a little leeway in reviews since it isn’t universal. There is certainly an audience for fart jokes and cross-dressing and people getting bashed over the head with chairs. Problems arise, however, when the majority of the comedy in a film is basic humor, requiring the bare minimum of cognitive skills to appreciate. Jack and Jill teeters on the edge of being a problematic comedy. Thankfully, star power, smart filmmaking choices and some genuinely clever comedy will leave audiences with a positive impression despite dragging them through some truly execrable bits.
Jack (Adam Sandler) is a commercial director whose company is in danger of collapsing if he can’t secure Al Pacino for a donut shop coffee spot. Luckily, Pacino is particularly vulnerable due to a recent meltdown caught on video that went viral. Jack sees this as an opportunity to approach Pacino, but complicating matters is Jack’s twin sister, Jill (Adam Sandler), who is visiting for the holidays. Jill is abrasive, visually repugnant and demanding. Jack is forced to take Jill with him when he approaches Pacino at a basketball game and, as luck would have it, Pacino is taken with Jill who doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Now Jack’s ability to cope with his sister is put to the test as he tries to play matchmaker in order to save his livelihood.
A good portion of the comedy is terrible and nonsensical. Jack’s daughter (Elodie Tougne) always has a doll in her arms that’s dressed exactly the same as her. Jack’s adopted son (Rohan Chand) is fixated on taping things to his body. Jill has a pet bird named Poopsie who travels with her. There are no good reasons for these character traits to be in the movie, yet they absurdly remain until audiences relent and accept them as essential aspects. Beyond the silliness of the characters are the actual gags that mostly involve something gross or something painful. Jill sweats so much in her sleep that she leaves “sweat shadows” on her sheets – on which another character will later lay. Characters are also constantly being pummeled by chairs, balls or each other. By the time the film gets to the lengthy exchange between characters through a bathroom door while one of them continually farts loudly, half the audience will require iron wills not to get up and leave.
Surprisingly, those that stay are in for a treat. Jack and Jill is laden with recognizable celebrities, ranging from infomercial personalities to A-listers, like Johnny Depp. While cameos have always been popular, the celebrities are presented here in their natural states, giving audiences a glimpse at their seemingly unguarded behavior. So having Al Pacino, who admittedly doesn’t have the same following of paparazzi as other celebs, simply being himself as he relentlessly pursues Jill is rare comedy. Granted, no one will ever mistake what goes on in Jack and Jill for Al Pacino’s real life, but it’s the little parallels with reality that will get big laughs. At one point, Jill accidently smashes Pacino’s Oscar, but shrugs it off by assuming he has more. “You’d think that,” Pacino replies, dryly. He is easily the best part of the film.
The technology used to place two Adam Sandlers on screen at the same time is impressive. After a few minutes of trying to spot the flaw that will give away the Hollywood trickery, audiences will give up and simply believe that Sandler twins exist. It really is quite remarkable, but it isn’t perfect. Late in the film there’s an odd jump rope sequence that has Sandler’s face awkwardly floating on the more agile body double standing in for him, but these technical hiccups are very rare.
Happy Madison Productions hasn’t had a quality track record lately, but thankfully Jack and Jill doesn’t rank as the worst of its productions in recent memory. In fact, in addition to Al Pacino’s unwavering commitment to his role and complete disregard for his brand, the filmmakers added some nice touches that really elevate the movie. For instance, the film is bookended by documentary-style interviews with real twins. These segments are not only funny, but endearing in their genuineness, and echo the positive message of Jack and Jill.
Typically, this movie would be the kind of production that people should only watch at home with friends after loosening up with alcohol. A lot of the comedy is cheap and belabored to the point of irritation. Due to its unique content, however, Jack and Jill could be something watchable in the theater with other viewers who enjoy Hollywood culture.