It’s not just that Jack & Jill (showing here in the Fort) is a bad movie. You knew it was going to be—Adam Sandler has chosen the “only appear in a good film twice a decade” career path, and Funny People just came out in 2009. It’s that I don’t feel confident calling Jack & Jill a “movie” at all. In contrast to even a hack job like Transformers 3, this film barely gestures towards the conventions of narrative film, such as:
Acting. In the grand and noble tradition of the Big Momma’s House and The Nutty Professor franchises, Adam Sandler plays both ad exec and family man Jack and his annoying and pathetic twin sister, Jill. And if you know by the gender designation of each character that they are fraternal, not identical, twins, you’re one step ahead of the script. What’s morbidly fascinating about Sandler’s performance is that he plays Jack with the hollow-eyed soullessness of a once promising and relevant actor watching his career immolate in slow motion, and Jill with the frenzied mania of Robin Williams’s and Gilbert Gottfried’s love child on a coke binge. It’s an Escher-esque puzzle for the eye and mind.
Character. Katie Holmes, played by zombie Katie Holmes, barely registers as Jack’s long-suffering wife, and his two children, both of whom appear to be deeply neurotic (one obsessively scotch-tapes objects to his body, the other fetishizes a doll who looks just like her), are scarcely more than set dressing. Jack is simultaneously successful enough at advertising to live in a SoCal palace and on the brink of bankruptcy if a particular deal doesn’t go through. The film spends eighty minutes brutally ridiculing Jill’s body, her personality, and her quasi-incestuous attachment to her brother, and ten suggesting that she is the moral compass of the story. Speaking of which . . .
Plot. Jack & Jill has all the logic and narrative cohesion of an acid trip. Rather than rising and falling action, this film paces by and through fart jokes. The storyline, such as it is, involves Jack alternately berating, exploiting, tolerating, and then ultimately embracing, his sister. Because time and space in this film don’t operate as they do in our world, characters go to bed and wake up weeks later, and the Atlantic Ocean is crossed by ship in a matter of hours. But when you really know that you’ve exited any space of cinematic normalcy and entered into a Lynchian fever dream is when Johnny Depp shows up. In a Justin Bieber t-shirt. Sandler must have cashed in every favor he was owed in Hollywood, as well as struck a Faustian bargain with Satan himself, in order to litter the grotesque wasteland of Jack & Jill with a dozen or so celebrity cameos. But even that explanation doesn’t account for the presence of Al Pacino, looking frighteningly at home, who is a full-fledged supporting actor in this theatre of the absurd. As Pacino preens and struts across the screen in his romantic pursuit of Jill, you feel less like a person watching a bad movie, and more like a person trapped in a burning carnival, riding on a merry-go-round possessed by the souls of the damned.
I’m still feeling bewildered and a bit traumatized by the mere knowledge thatJack & Jill was made and continues to be screened on theatres across the nation. I urge you to avoid it at all costs. Hell, see Courageous instead. I kind of wish I had.