At the heart of Adam Sandler’s latest comedic romp, Jack and Jill, are lessons about the extricable bonds of family and the existential duality of the human soul, encapsulated under the guise of a…oh, who the heck am I kidding?
The degree of celebrity and financial success that Sandler continues to amass as a result of films that are increasingly and resoundingly putrid is fascinating only if one day we learn that the entirety of Sandler’s career was one big lampoon of Hollywood: A marginally talented star spoon-feeds producers and moviegoers a steady diet of clichéd scripts, awful actors, lazy filmmaking and offensive material, and they keep coming back for more.
If this were somehow true, then Jack and Jill would represent Sandler’s attempt to see just how low his fans will go. The cross-dressing comedy hasn’t truly worked since Tootsie, but that doesn’t stop Sandler and the indefensible Dennis Dugan from slapping on a dress and foisting this affront to the medium. Set around the Thanksgiving and Hanukkah seasons, Los Angeles ad exec Jack Sadelstein (Sandler) ruefully awaits the annual arrival of Jill (Sandler in a wig, makeup, fat suit and grating accent), his identical twin sister.
Jill is loud, needy, embarrassing and obnoxious—frankly, a scene in which she talks loudly on her cell phone in a movie theater make her fair game for ridicule. But, she’s still preferable to Jack, who is regularly and inexplicably cruel to Jill, giddy when his adopted son punches her in the face and she crash-lands a jet ski outside his pool.
In other words, the audience isn’t given a reason to like either sibling or, for that matter, anyone else in this dumpster fire of a movie. Jack’s throwaway family includes dim bulb wife Erin (Katie Holmes, grinning mindlessly) and an adopted moppet from India who has a bizarre but pointless fetish for Scotch-taping objects, including animals, to his body.
The first fart joke comes during the opening credits, eventually metastasizing into a full-blown diarrhea gag after Jill scarfs down some chimichangas. And Sandler trots out his usual unholy triumvirate: choppy editing, useless celebrity cameos and casual racism. Famed Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez is ethnically emasculated, playing a gardener who cracks wise about crossing the border inside a car trunk and takes Jill to a gathering of la familia that features an unconscious old woman revived by shoving red chili peppers in her mouth.
Playing himself, Al Pacino becomes infatuating with Jill after spying her at a Lakers basketball game and embarks on an extended, fanatical courtship. Rehashing lines from The Godfather and donning a black suit a la Tony Montana in Scarface eventually devolves into watching the acting legend tickle-fight with the cross-dressing Sandler inside a medieval castle and perform a rap routine in a commercial for flavored coffee.
While Pacino’s presence here seemingly represents a new nadir in his career, he nevertheless manages to turn this utter rubbish into something oddly satirical. He tackles each scene with such gusto that you soon realize that while Sandler is paying slapdash homage, Pacino has something more cunning in mind. He turns the film’s inanity to his advantage, spoofing his onscreen personas as a means toward skewering the entire Hollywood system. Jill consoles Pacino after smashing his Oscar statuette by reminding him that “you must have others.” “You’d think it,” he deadpans. “But no.” Later, Pacino longingly recalls his native New York City, lamenting L.A. as a place “where all the palm trees look the same” and productions of Richard III feature Bruce Jenner as Lord Hastings.
In spite of itself, Jack and Jill will likely fetch Sandler another big payday. Still, when Pacino appears in a NYC bar at film’s end dressed as Don Quixote and starts tilting at a ceiling fan, it’s a joke that’s too smart for the room and more self-aware than a movie that’s (literally) full of shit deserves.