Monday 1 August 2011

Movie Review: Along Came Polly (2004)

A romantic comedy that mixes classy charm with bathroom humour, Along Came Polly benefits from appealing leads and good depth in the supporting cast.

Reuben (Ben Stiller) is an insurance risk analyst who does nothing without calculating all possible risks. He marries his sweetheart Lisa (Debra Messing), and is crushed when she immediately betrays him by jumping into bed with hunky scuba instructor Claude (Hank Azaria) early in their Caribbean honeymoon. Reuben returns to work and stubbornly hangs on to his spreadsheet-based risk-assessment mentality despite Lisa's betrayal exposing its failings in devastating terms.

At an art gallery, Reuben reconnects with Polly (Jennifer Aniston), a former high school classmate who used to be brainy but is now a lowly server with a catering company. Polly has chosen a nomadic life of planning for nothing and going wherever the wind pushes her. She is messy, unsettled and unpredictable, loves spicy food and dancing, and takes risks as a matter of routine. Polly is the exact opposite of what Reuben should be looking for, but they nevertheless fall in love. When Lisa comes back to town pleading for a second chance, Reuben has to decide between the comforts of familiarity or the adventure of learning to take risks.

Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston slip effortlessly into the two central roles of Along Came Polly. Stiller shines as Reuben struggles to explain his growing attraction to Polly's world of chaos, while Aniston has never been better on the big screen, her Polly not shy about having fun, but also struggling to hide the insecurities that drive her fear of growing up and settling down.

The supporting actors add a lot of entertaining and good quality colour to the world of Reuben. Philip Seymour Hoffman is Sandy, Reuben's boorish friend. A former child actor with one notable supporting performance on his resume, Hoffman is quite hilarious as Sandy goes through life demanding never-deserved respect, oblivious to a career that long-since seeped out of the bottom of the barrel. Alec Baldwin as Reuben's boss and Bryan Brown as a daredevil, Richard Branson-type CEO being evaluated by Reuben for insurability are much better than the usually predicable characters supporting romantic comedy leads.

Although he does dwell on some admittedly funny bathroom and body fluid humour, director and writer John Hamburg keeps the pacing brisk, with both the romance and the comedy progressing smoothly, an example of how a script written by one person often trumps the over-bloated malaise of scripts-by-committee.

Not all unexpected visitors are welcome, but Along Came Polly proves to be a pleasantly entertaining encounter.

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