Mark Reviews Movies


1 Ĺ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, David Moscow, David Rasche, Raymond J. Barry

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, some crude humor and a brief drug reference)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 1/10/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Well, hereís the first official mainstream release of 2003, and if the quality of the first movie of the year is inversely proportionate to the overall quality of the year as a whole, weíre off to a good start. One day Iíll do a study on that hypothesis. Until then, what weíre left with is an entirely substandard comedy of far-fetched errors in which a couple of young newlyweds runs around Europe screwing up wherever they can and possibly couldnít. The gags are the stuff of many other movies, and the whole thing has an irritatingly saccharine sweet tone. The combination simply doesnít work, as their exploits are played for cute funny not rowdy funnyóand many other reasons too. The movie seems to want us to laugh at these characters in knowing recognition, but the things they do are the stuff of raucous sex comedies and harebrained situational comedies. To suggest to anyone can relate to what these two people experience in the course of the movie is to suggest that people arenít human.

Tom (Ashton Kutcher) and Sarah (Brittany Murphy, who shows comic potential) have just returned from their honeymoon in Europe , and it obviously didnít go too well. On their way out of the airport, they do little things to annoy each other, like Tom pushing a baggage cart into Sarah (note how Sarah is punished much moreómild misogyny is not a good way to start a comedy). Going their separate ways, a separation and probable divorce seem sure to follow. Sarah heads home to her rich, prominent family, and Tom heads off to his job on the radio as a late-night traffic reporter. As he sits there, he recalls the story of the fateful trip starting with how the couple met (Tom hit her in the face with a footballóhow much more must this poor girl suffer through the movie?). They move in together quickly, although Sarahís dog is a general annoyance to Tom. The same day Tom accidentally causes the dog to leap from a window, resulting in the animal's death, the two become engaged. Tom, of course, keeps the whole thing a secret, and itís not the only secret kept between the two of them.

Once the couple eventually heads off on their honeymoon, the movie meanders without any driving force. As obvious as it is, I wonder why the frustration of staying celibate on oneís honeymoon isnít used properly. The movie thinks itís the cause of most of the arguments, and yet, the weight of that situation is never really explored. The comedy, as a result, is timid and unenergetic. Even when the script places the couple in typical sex comedy situations, the scenarios and execution are decidedly tame. Thank the PG-13 rating and the fact that all of these coupleís adventures are supposed to be cute so that we can understand what a cute couple they make even when the toughest of circumstances slightly lessens their appearance ofÖ cuteness. An overbearingly pleasant score plays under every scene, even the jokes, which simply donít have any edge. Take the introduction of a sex toy. Before any joke can be made beyond the fact that itís a sex toy (how utterly shocking!), it becomes the impetus for something completely unrelated when Tomís attempt to charge it blows a circuit and leaves the entire hotel without power.

The script itself suffers from usual contrivances. The couple never once addresses anything worthwhile. Itís funny that the two never directly talk about the obvious hurdle thatís probably at the heart of their problems: their class barrier. Instead, the script throws in Peter (Christian Kane), an ex-boyfriend of Sarahís, to add even more problems for the couple. Ironically, though, his inclusion leads to the best scene in the movie. Eventually, Sarah reveals an encounter between herself and Peter to Tom, who retaliates against Peter by chasing him around the hotel with a poker (the setup, I would rather not get into detail about). Itís the best scene in the movie, not because itís funny, but because it takes male insecurity to such an extreme that it turns out rather disturbing and, Iím sure, unintentionally satirical. The resolution of such an intense marriage dilemma can only be solved, of course, by a character whoís only seen and mentioned once before. Tomís father (a thankless role for Raymond J. Barry) suddenly appears near the end to give an inevitable speech about marriage only to disappear for the rest of the movie. Odd that he doesnít address the indiscretions that caused the split in the first case. Sure, he tells how you get through the day-to-day of a marriage, but how do you repair something that was broken from the start?

Just Married thankfully saves us one predictable possibility: Tomís story being heard on the radio, making him a big star, and getting him his own show, causing Sarah to realize that he really loves her and that she should go back to him. It saves us the specifics of that possibility, but it doesnít save us the idea behind it. So weíre left with two things to ponder:  Are they right for each other? Maybe. Does the movie make us care either way? Nope.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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