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November 11, 2011: Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill is released, and cinemas become a black hole where all laughs go to die. Dunkaccino was the event horizon.
I adore the Sandman. The man is an artiste; a patron saint of goofball, mawkish comedy, a one-of-a-kind thespian and master hustler, making movies for himself, his pals, the holidays and fans. I’m the grown-man who can’t resist quoting the questionable; whether it’s guzzling Fanta and referring it to ‘fizzy bubbleh’, laughing at myself saying ‘maize’ or singing I’m Every Woman in a Ving Rhamesian baritone. What can I say? He tickles my medulla oblongata.
So, I state this with love: Jack and Jill exists on such a frightening plane of mass-market sh*t, it’s almost an eighth wonder of the world that $79 million (!) was poured into it – there’s serious investigative journalism to be done into how much Shaq was paid to lick a ham, or Johnny Depp’s salary for barely being Johnny Depp.
Somewhere along the way, Sandler morphed from the angry slacker who defied moral odds (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds), to an everyday, inexplicably wealthy, ill-tempered family man (Anger Management, Just Go With It, Grown Ups), with a few variations.
Jack and Jill has to be the laziest of the latter, starring the actor as both straight-laced ad executive Jack with a wife (Katie Holmes, who demands our respect for grabbing that bag and doing nothing in return) and kids, one of whom likes taping himself with chicken legs, birds… anything really, and his unbearably annoying identical sister Jill, who leaves crime scene sweat patches in her wake and has a need for ‘twin time’ which borders on incestuous.
The story is by the numbers: Jack can’t be bothered with Jill at Thanksgiving, but she comes anyway and overstays her welcome. There’s slapstick hijinks, toilet mishaps (‘Is Evel Knievel doing wheelies in there?’ spurred my guiltiest laugh) and fallouts, but all is frustratingly well in the end – realistically, you’d emancipate yourself from such a family. The direction is predictably pedestrian from Dennis Dugan and the score plays next-to-no role, so let’s not waste time there.
The script, penned by Sandler and Steve Koren, is an affront. In one scene, Jill doubts the homelessness of a homeless man and shouts, ‘You’re fat, you’re Al-Qaeda!’ In another, she – god, I can’t believe I’m referring to her as ‘she’ – refers to herself as a ‘prostitwin’.
It feels like a feature-length bit from the makers of Tropic Thunder‘s The Fatties, or one of Sandler’s fake hits in Funny People, like Re-Do or Sayonara Davey! It also features a dementedly warped shot of babies’ backsides, the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again until The Boss Baby’s butt plug gag.
The film’s one genuine curveball is the casting of Al Pacino as himself, with the caveat of him being even crazier and rather randy – at one point, he purrs completely straight-faced, ‘I can smell horny across an ocean.’ The Godfather legend is bestowed with the wittiest line, and he goes big, but he’s also asked to fight a ceiling fan with a Scottish accent.
And, best of all, the final scene in the movie is what’s allowed it to endure in meme legend: his Dunkaccino advert – ‘Don’t mind if I do!’ – which he demands to be burned. Two things: hilariously, the song took three people to write; and watching it unfold still feels like a fever dream, something nobody would, nor should ever believe.
While a hallmark of Sandler’s work is performance with fans, not critics (with the exception of Uncut Gems, Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories), Jack and Jill wasn’t a blockbuster. Off the back of its behemoth budget, it made close to $150 million.
Even among average moviegoers, it’s considered to be one of the worst of all-time, boasting a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 36% audience score and 12 Razzie awards, sweeping every category in which it was nominated. Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, wrote it had him dialling for Dignitas.
When Sandler was being touted for an Oscar for Uncut Gems, he said he’d come back and make a film ‘so bad on purpose’ if he didn’t win. The Academy Award wasn’t meant to be, but he’s yet to produce anything as bad as Jack and Jill. If he does, God help us all – and one ticket please.
Jack and Jill is available to stream on Netflix now.
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