In Judd Apatow’s “Funny People,” Adam Sandler played a middle-age comedian whose career was built on a series of popular but absurdly low-brow movies. The movies are trotted out in faux trailers: “Redux,” in which he plays a 6-month-old baby; “My Best Friend Is a Robot,” with Owen Wilson as the robot; and, most memorably, “Mer-man,” where Sandler plays a masculine mermaid.
If you slid “Jack and Jill” into that lineup, no one would even blink. The film, in which Sandler plays both sides of male-female identical twins, feels like a joke trailer stretched into a feature film.
That isn’t necessarily contrary to the aims of “Jack and Jill,” a gleefully stupid movie much more in line with Sandler’s earlier comedies than his later, more adventurous movies.
It’s directed by Sandler’s longtime filmmaking partner Dennis Dugan, who directed one of those early Sandler movies (“Happy Gilmore”) as well as more recent failures such as last year’s “Grown Ups” and the much more interesting and funny “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”
In “Jack and Jill,” Sandler plays Jack Sadelstein, a TV commercial producer, married to Erin (Katie Holmes) with two children (Rohan Chand, Elodie Tougne). Thanksgiving brings an unwelcome visit from his twin sister Jill (Sandler).
Sandler plays Jill as he might have for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, and Jill is less a real character than a walking punch line. She has a thick Bronx accent, a masculine physique and is completely out of touch. Sandler plays her more like an older Jewish mother than a 43-year-old.
Jack is aggressively mean to his sister, whose visit, much to his chagrin, keeps being extended. Jill proves useful, though, because she’s surprisingly fetching to a handful of men, most notably Al Pacino. That’s convenient for Jack, whose trying to get Pacino to act in a Dunkin’ Donuts ad.
Pacino, who plays himself in a surprisingly large part, is, one fears, going the Robert De Niro route here, using his esteemed reputation to parody himself. With ga-ga eyes, he chases relentlessly after Jill, who is largely unimpressed.
It must be said: Pacino is good in the film and gets most of the laughs. His total commitment to character applies even in a movie such as this, where he’s lovesick for a Sandler in drag. Comedy has always been part of Pacino’s range. Still, when Pacino finally cuts the hip-hop-style commercial and afterward tells Jack, “Burn this,” I’m inclined to agree.
For fans of Sandler’s sillier movies, “Jack and Jill” (which Sandler co-wrote with Steve Koren, from a story by Ben Zook) will likely provide something satisfyingly adolescent and cartoonish. There are all the kinds of things you’d expect: fart jokes, poor filmmaking (a scene at a Lakers game, obviously shot on a green screen, is unusually shoddy); and cameos from the usual crowd (David Spade, Tim Meadows, Norm MacDonald) and a few less predictable ones (Johnny Depp, John McEnroe, Regis Philbin, Shaquille O’Neal).
But the unapologetically idiotic “Jack and Jill” comes off like the last 15 years of comedy didn’t happen. Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and many others have made comedy smarter and wittier, while being just as irreverent.
Comedy moved on from the mid-1990s, and it’s time Sandler did, too. “Jack and Jill” even gives fart jokes a bad name.
“Jack and Jill,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG for crude material including suggestive references and comic violence. Running time: 90 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.