I have such mixed feelings on the latest masterpiece from Adam Sandler, but I think I can sum it up thusly: every time Al Pacino is on the screen, JACK AND JILL is kind of great; when he's not, it's a fucking mess. Completely self-aware of his own image and public perception, Pacino riffs on his work in SCARFACE, THE GODFATHER movies, SCENT OF A WOMAN, and even his take on Richard III to great comedic effect. If you're a fan of his work, there are few greater tributes/parodies to his career than this movie.
The teeny-tiny problem is you have to wade through about 90 minutes of crap to get to these gem moments. You see, JACK AND JILL is regretfully not about Pacino playing himself. It's about a set of twins, male and female, both played by Sandler. Jack Sadelstein is a successful Los Angeles ad exec, who pals around with celebrities who have appeared in his commercials. One of his clients, Dunkin Donuts, wants Pacino to be the spokesperson for their latest coffee offering, and threaten to leave Jack's agency if he can't deliver. At the same time, sister Jill comes for her annual visit from New York for Thanksgiving, but the plot concocts ridiculous reasons for her to stay for much longer and annoy Jack and everyone around her.
The basic flaw of the film is that the character of Jill isn't in the least bit funny. Sandler plays her as woefully out of touch with the ways of the modern world, sadly lacking in male companionship, and unflatteringly manly (go figure). She's grating and loud and pathetic, but the kids and Jack's wife Erin (Katie Holmes) love her, so it's really Jack with the problem, according to them. But when Pacino sets eyes on Jill in an admittedly funny sequence set at a Lakers game, he instantly falls in love because he feels like he knows her since they're from the same part of New York. Naturally, Jill barely knows who he is and couldn't be less interested in his advances. Oh, the hilarity.
The film hits its own personal low when Jack must impersonate Jill to get Pacino to sign on for the commercial, which is funny only because Pacino knows exactly how to play it. The biggest problem with JACK AND JILL—and it's an issue I have with many of Sandler's goofier movies—is that Sandler doesn't bother to even create full-blooded characters. If Jill had a spark of recognizable humanity, rather than simply making her a walking, farting, sweating mess of a creature, there might actually be something to this movie. I know, you're probably thinking, "It's an Adam Sandler movie, dude. You're looking for three-dimensional characters?" Frankly, yes. I'm always looking for fully realized characters in every film, and Sandler has done it before, even in his broader works. But the way this film exists, I honestly thought when I first saw the trailer that it was a fake trailer for one of the terrible movies his character in FUNNY PEOPLE made.
As tempting as it might be, it's tough to flat out dismiss JACK AND JILL. Sandler's films make enough money that he can occasionally pull in a heavyweight like Jack Nicholson (ANGER MANAGEMENT) or Pacino to appear in his movies. Hell, even Pacino's seat-mate at the Lakers game is pretty impressive—I won't ruin that surprise for you. And the offshoot of this phenomenon is that some really funny moments make it into his movie, despite his seeming attempts to ruin such moments. I can't with a clear conscience recommend the movie, but I would be remiss if I didn't make an appeal to die-hard Al Pacino fans to give it a look if they're so inclined. It's a toss up, but you may find yourself laughing considerably more than you might expect.