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Kino Korner April 1, 2004
 
Poison Grows In Stiller's Water
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 3
 
Now Ben Stiller, having carefully usurped a huge range of Generation X property-traits, from the evil (Reality Bites) to the genuinely interesting (Zero Effect), is cashing in on his investment. The Gen-Xers are starting to age. The 40s are closing in, which means Gen-Xers are starting to become adults. And Ben is there to lead us through. Just so long as he's adored all the way.

That is what Along Came Polly is all about (as is Stiller's next movie, out in a week or so in America, called Envy). It's an "adult" comedy for the "new adults" -- the aging Gen-Xers. By "adult comedy" I mean a comedy which is not funny. There's a whole genre of those not-funny adult comedies -- like Analyze This or When Harry Met Sally or, say, any of those Blake Edwards movies from the 70s. In fact, yeah, Ben Stiller has become exactly that -- the Billy Crystal of my generation. Or worse, the George Segal of my generation. An evil liar, not at all funny, and appearing in just about every movie that comes out.

Along Came Polly is about a, yup, you guessed it, neurotic Jewish dork played by Sten Biller, who courts a down-to-earth, zany Gen-X chick afraid of commitment -- another lie which my generation loves to believe. Show me a wild Gen-X chick who's afraid to commit to a materially well-off Jew, and I'll show you a Yeti.

And this is where I should talk a bit about Jennifer Aniston, who plays Polly. Aniston is in many ways the perfect counterpart to Stiller -- she fooled me by playing the likeable girlfriend in Office Space, one of the bravest movies of the past 20 years. They always throw you off, these clever upgrades! Still, Aniston is a hateful creature. Don't be fooled by her roles -- she always plays "real" women with all the appropriate Gen-X kinda-insecure mouth-twitches which only prove how earnest she is -- like the Jesus freak in Bruce Almighty. But as Ash says, "It's a trick."

If Ben Stiller is my generation's Billy Crystal -- rapacious Komodo Dragon ego stuffed deceptively into scrawny little Jewish body like one of the aliens from Men in Black -- then Aniston is the Gen-X's Meg Ryan. "Along Came Polly"

Then there's Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Now here's an actor who has always made me proud, even in his bad moments -- and lately, there have been more and more of those bad moments. Hoffman has always played fat, desperate, sweaty characters better than anyone I can think of -- and he's exhausted that schtick. Fine, I don't blame him for wanting to move on. In Along Came Polly, he plays the whacky obnoxious friend, in a role much better suited to that other horrible creature of my generation, Jack Black.

Wait, Phillip Seymour Hoffman chasing Jack Black character-roles? Is this what growing up is all about for Gen-Xers? Diminution, bowing to the gods Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston? Is there not someone out there dying of an incurable blood disease who will stalk those two and terminate their reign with extreme prejudice, to rescue the rest of us who must live in such a world? We promise you poems, songs and sculptures!

I'm not even going to bother telling you whether or not Stiller overcomes that whole fake obstacle of character conflict -- he's anal and she's so wild because she travels the world and keeps a ferret (this is what passes for wild in my generation).

I will tell you that there are two funny moments to save you your time.

The first is when Stiller's wife (this is before he meets Aniston) bones a French scuba instructor during their honeymoon in the Caribbean. The Frog is played so well by Hank Azaria, a wonderful underrated actor. He also played one of the great B-movie roles in the seminal middle-aged-crisis flick Heat, appearing as Alan Marciano, a sleazy Vegas con boning Val Kilmer's slut wife.


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Ames
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Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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