I feel like I just saw this in cinemas like, two weeks ago. However, it was a little longer than that (and if you’re reading this review from your bunker under the Arctic snow in 2326, it was way longer).
Ben Stiller plays terminally neurotic nice guy Reubin who has just married the girl of his dreams, Lisa (Debra Messing). After a massive wedding, they fly out to some island getaway and, within minutes, she’s shagging the scuba instructor Claude (Hank Azaria in his funniest role ever). Distraught, Reubin heads back to New York and the life they had together while Lisa stays with Claude. Reubin’s best friend Sandy Lyle (Philip Seymour Hoffman in monster pig mode) is an ex-child actor who thinks the world owes him a living and he manages to convince Reubin to come to a party. Here he bumps into an old school friend, Polly (Jennifer Aniston), and before long the two are dating. However, neurotic Reubin and free-spirited Polly are two very different people and, naturally, hilarity ensues.
Then Lisa comes back and Reubin must decide if he wants his old life back or the new uncomfortable (but fun) life he has with Polly. What’s a fella to do? (Any red-blooded hetero man will tell you what he’d do…)
Ben Stiller’s brilliant grasp of comic timing is worked to the extreme here as he goes from one cringingly bad situation to the next. Aniston is fantastic as support and even manages some decent comedy of her own, although she plays more the comic foil to Stiller’s antics throughout. Hoffman dependably produces a trademark role of sleazy, unwashed and unkempt, but also manages to bring the laughs in with his self-centred performance as Sandy Lyle, the ex-child star now a washed-up loser. The three work well as the central dynamic of the film, yet the three seldom share a scene. For a movie named after Polly, it’s Stiller who is in nearly every scene. It’s a perfect vehicle for his brand of wide-ranging humour too, with all manner of gags utilised for the best effect. There’s Ben dancing, there’s Ben in the toilet and there’s Ben in disbelief. Sure, they’re all characteristic moves for Stiller, but he knows how to work them to the best advantage and it is he that the majority of the laughs come from here.
In the same comic vein as There’s Something About Mary, this is a textbook comedy formula being employed to maximum cringe with maximum laughs. The plot is simple and predictable, but that contributes to the film’s appeal. We don’t need to think about the bigger issues in life, we just want to laugh at a neurotic and hope he gets the chick in the end (and by ‘hope’ I mean ‘know’).
Along Came Polly starts out funny and maintains that pace of laughter throughout. Stiller’s awkwardness and faux confidence, Hoffman’s vulgarities and disgusting attributes and Aniston’s casual elegance and straight technique roll the film up into a loosely scripted deliberate string of comic events that plays evenly for laughs. There’s no attempt at three monster comic scenes that connect through several lesser scenes here; the film is well balanced with laughs from beginning to end that have long enough pauses between to let us keep up.
Easily enough recommended for fans of any of the players within, or for anyone after a semi-cringe, semi-laugh piece dominating a subtle romantic comedy.
Dialogue is all, of course, delivered in the perfect manner befitting the film and all sounds fine. There aren’t any characters doing anything unfamiliar with their voices here and there’s no real trouble understanding anything. Theodore Shapiro’s score does what a score does in films of this nature and admirably suits the piece, though I’m not queuing up to buy it or anything.
The whole deal is delivered here in a choice of DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and if you can pick the difference you’re doing a little better than me. The surrounds don’t really get a lot to do, though they do support some of the dance and city bits quite well. The brief storm at sea scene (containing one of the most clever character argument scenes I’ve ever seen) is also aptly treated with surround channels and beefy subwoofer. On the subwoofer note, this supports the music brilliantly, but again doesn’t really get a chance to shine for anything else.
Along Came Polly is a funny film, if oddly titled. Ben Stiller does his usual job as does Jennifer Aniston with admirable support from Philip Seymour Hoffman in an unusual role for him. The film is easily strong enough to stand alone and does stand up well to rewatchability, though the extras here don’t really do much to add any value to the piece.
Still, well worth it for fans of any of the cast or those after a film of American Pie/There’s Something About Mary-style cringe humour with a romance thrown in.