Along Came Polly

Hey, who just came along? Oh, it’s you, Polly!

I keep wanting to call this movie “There’s Something About Polly,” though the Farrelly Brothers, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with making it.

This is a movie that insinuated itself into my heart via HBO. I don’t remember which moment caught my attention or when I decided to watch the whole thing, but it has grown on me to the extent that I’m now on the lookout for it when I’m switching channels and if it’s listed I perk up and I hope that my timing is right and I’ll be joining the show-already-in-progress when one of my favorite moments is playing. The odds are with me, because I’m accumulating a lot of favorite moments in this little gem.

The budget for this film was probably huge, given the star power of the two leads, but it has the feeling of a small and sweet movie. Count me in as a big fan, and feel free to use any of my quotes on the DVD cover.

And none of this should be the case, because the premise of “Along Came Polly” is hardly gasp-inspiring. Fussy, risk-adverse man – he’s so risk-adverse, he works in insurance and assesses risk for a living, get it? – meets sloppy free-spirited woman – she’s so free-spirited, she travels around the world a lot and has problems with commitment (I think this bit about having problems with commitment is an actual quote from the movie, and God love Jennifer Aniston as Polly for mouthing a cliché like that with a straight face), get it? – just after his wife cheats on him with a French scuba instructor on their honeymoon. Risk-adverse man and free-spirited woman are so different they drive each other crazy, but still they find a way to fall in love, get it? Nobody’s ever come up with that idea before. It’s as if the Odd Couple started dating. I don’t need to spend nine bucks to know I’ve already seen this story. But, see, I didn’t have to spend nine bucks to watch “Along Came Polly.” Not even once, and I’ve watched it a lot now. How did we all live before cable t.v.?

For my money, this movie delivers big bang for the buck (at least nine dollars worth, maybe more). Ben Stiller marries Debra Messing. Debra’s character is as much of a self-involved pill as Grace is on “Will and Grace.” I can’t watch “Will and Grace” anymore because, though the jokes are quite funny, everything the characters say reads like a script. Yeah, I know it is a script that they’re reading, but it’s simply too well-written a script. Most people don’t speak in complete sentences. Most people, gay or not, can’t pull arcane references to Cole Porter and Katie Couric out of thin air in the heat of any given moment. But that’s what the characters on “Will and Grace” do, so I had to stop watching it because it was annoying the bejeezus out of me.

Okay, back to Debra Messing’s character, Lisa, in “Along Came Polly.” Lisa, like Grace, doesn’t take responsibility for her actions. I hate that in a person. Which is why I love when Lisa gets taken down a whole bunch of pegs at the end of this movie. We’ll get back to that later.

Alec Baldwin is delightful in this movie. He plays Ben Stiller’s boss. Ben Stiller’s character is named Reuben Feffer. I haven’t done an exhaustive study, but I suspect there’s a clause in each of Ben Stiller’s contracts that requires his character have a funny name. Gaylord Focker is a juvenile choice for a name, but it’s good for a laugh. I would have spelled “Feffer” differently. “Pfeffer,” would have been my choice. That means “pepper” in German, which would have gotten a huge laugh in the theatres, I’m sure. Nicknames also figure prominently in this movie. The French scuba instructor keeps calling Reuben “Leuben” (strictly speaking, that’s not a nickname, it’s a misunderstanding, but who’s speaking strictly here?). Polly’s friend Javier, the Salsa Dancer, calls Reuben “Ruby Tuesday.” It’s all much cuter and more endearing than you’d expect, trust me.

Okay, back to Alec Baldwin. He plays his character, Stan Indursky, with a deep voice and a New York accent. Stan’s signature phrase is “Good things.” Which I guess means “I wish you good things” or “Good things should only happen to you, and to me while we’re on the subject.” It’s really cute and I love Alec Baldwin for being so cute and for being an articulate liberal Democrat and for speaking out in favor of animal rights. So at Reuben’s wedding to Lisa, Stan gives the toast and says he would insure their future (he’s an insurance broker, get it?) and closes with “Good things.” Then, when Reuben comes back from his honeymoon, having been cheated on by his new bride, Stan offers his sympathy, telling Reuben he knew Lisa was a whore (pronounced “hoo-er”) the moment he met her. Reuben protests that it’s more complicated than that, and Stan says, “Don’t defend her. She’s a dime store hooker and she always will be.” “Dime store hooker” is a very funny phrase, and Alec delivers it perfectly.

You know a boy wrote this script because there are a few wince-inducing references to defecation. What is it with boys and laughing at farting and shitting? I’m not contradicting myself. I know I wrote in an earlier post that “shit” is, in and of itself, a funny word. It is. Shitting, however, is, in and of itself or otherwise, not a funny thing to do. One of the salient aspects of Ben Stiller’s character is that he has I.B.S. What is that, you ask, and so did Polly. It’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So Reuben shouldn’t eat anything other than bland food, but of course Polly is so free-spirited, she has to eat at ethnic restaurants with really spicy food. On their first date, they eat at a restaurant where you don’t get utensils, you just eat with your hands, which only adds to Reuben’s distress, and how predictable is that? He likes to eat with a fork, she uses her hands at dinner. How will they ever overcome these obstacles and fall in love? Watch and find out. So they go back to Polly’s place and Reuben has a wicked attack of I.B.S. and ends up in Polly’s bathroom without any toilet paper. I won’t go into any additional details.

Then there’s the part where Reuben’s good friend Sandy tells him they have to leave a party because there’s an emergency because Sandy just “sharted.” I won’t go into any additional details. Use your imagination. Or don’t. I would advise against it.

Now, having said that, I don’t blame Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Sandy. Though he couldn’t have protested at the first read-through of the script? “Guys, I am not going to say the word ‘sharted.’ I was in ‘Boogie Nights,’ okay? I have standards.” It’s okay, Philip Seymour, because you are adorable and brilliant in this movie. His character, Sandy, is an actor who was in one movie and then hasn’t done anything much since. He is known for playing the bagpipes in “Crocodile Tears.” Adorable. Now he’s playing Judas in a community theatre production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Brilliant. In fact, at one point you see his headshot on the bulletin board at the community theatre, and it’s one of those headshots that is divided into quarters and has four pictures, one of which is of Sandy as Hamlet, complete with cheesy crown and cheesy skull. Adorable and brilliant.

Okay, so it’s the end of the movie, and Reuben has alienated Polly and she’s moving out of New York and he invites his wife to see Sandy’s show because Lisa has come back from the island and she says she made a terrible mistake leaving Reuben for a French scuba instructor and won’t he please take her back. But Lisa’s not very repentant. So I was thrilled when he tells her he’s not going to take her back, and she says “What are you talking about? Why?” and he says “Why? Because you screwed a scuba instructor on our honeymoon. What kind of heartless bitch would do that to someone she loves?” Yes! Take that, Lisa! Score one for the good guys!

So Reuben has to run and find Polly and convince her to take him back (don’t worry, everything works out okay – this is a comedy, not “A Star Is Born”). While he’s doing this, his good friend Sandy steps in and attends a meeting wherein it will be determined if a certain high risk businessman will be given insurance. Apparently Reuben’s professional future rides on this guy getting insurance. And Sandy saves the day with his brilliant performance as a risk assessor! Bravo, Sandy! Score another one for the good guys!

I’m not happy that this film keeps trying to get a laugh out of Polly’s blind ferret smacking into things because he can’t see. Polly! Keep an eye on your ferret! He’s blind, for fuck’s sake.

Michele Lee and Bob Dishy are adorable as Reuben’s parents. Bryan Brown is adorable as the uninsurable businessman Leland Van Lew. Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston are adorable as the leads. One of the best things about this movie is you get to see Hank Azaria’s and Ben Stiller’s naked buttocks. Who knew they both have such cute tushes? For my money, learning that is a bargain at any price. Here’s my nine bucks. Is that real butter on the popcorn?

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