Review: Just Married

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

January is traditionally a film graveyard. Last year the opening film of the year was Imposter, a horribly bad looking movie starring Gary Sinise (which I avoided). While some January films are successful (something has to make money), we are still forced to watch TV spots for movies like Snow Dogs, A Walk to Remember and Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist, which couldn’t even get its grammar right. Yet, Just Married is a surprisingly funny January opener. While it glared with flaws and unoriginality, I still laughed...quite a bit. Perhaps these laughs are undeserving, but the point is, I laughed.

Its rare that a romantic comedy has equal parts comedy and romance. Usually, one half because the dominate factor in the movie. For example, Sleepless in Seattle is more of a romance than a comedy, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding is more comedy than romance. Just Married has chosen to take the comedy over romance, a very smart move. Just Married has its most serious moments of tepidness during its romance scenes, which, as expected, are all cliches.

Tom Leezak and Sarah McNerney are just married. And as the tagline suggests, it was the perfect honeymoon...until it began. So goes the movie. Just Married is one endless parade of terrible thing that happen to this couple of honeymoon. These include, their car falling off a cliff, being kicked out of a 5 star hotel, and...[“Psycho” music]...not having sex! Things go from unfortunate to disastrous when they are followed to their honeymoon destination by Peter Prentis, a former flame of Sarah’s, at the wishes of Sarah’s wealthy parents.

Comedy is always a high wire act. A small miscalculation in delivery or vernacular can make a good joke receive crickets instead of laughs. Fortunately for Just Married, the comedy is usually right on target. There were a few exceptions, including a fight scene at the end that seemed out of place, but most of all, they expected us to find the killing of a dog to be funny. I will let that go, but only because most of the comedy, especially in the beginning works. It should be said that Just Married is funny in the pie in the face way, its certainly not highbrow humor or satire.

Just Married loses face though during its moments of romance and its pathetic attempt at a moral. Throughout the entire movie, romance sits on the backburner, letting the comedy keep the movie moving forward. This lets the first 2/3 of the movie work splendidly, but it lets us down big time during the final romantic climax, because the romance has not really developed. Lack of romantic climax is not even the biggest problem facing the romance part of Just Married. At the end, writer Sam Harper threw in a moral that was supposed to say that love isn’t all you need to make a relationship work. This moral doesn’t fit in the story one bit, obviously it was necessary for some sort of relationship/romance, but this moral doesn’t work in the comedy based formula of Just Married.

Just Married could have worked if not for some need that the writer felt to put in cliches and useless plot elements. A guilty pleasure physical comedy is fine every now and then, yet Just Married also throws in a separate plot line involving this Peter Prentis character supposedly trying to steal Sarah away. Ridiculous, and more important, unnecessary. This has just been used so much, it has a recycled taste to it, and that is not a pleasant one.

Ashton Kutcher is a regular on the very funny FOX sitcom, That 70’s Show. Like expected, Ashton plays That 70’s Show character ‘Steve Kelso’ once removed. His brand of physical comedy is appropriate for such a film, but he flounders during the romantic scenes. He has engineered such a comedic reputation that it is difficult to take him seriously, much like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey in their dramatic roles. Luckily for Ashton, though, drama is only a small segment of this role. The real story of Just Married though is Brittany Murphy, who handles both drama and comedy very well. Recently seen in the Eminem vehicle, 8 Mile, her panache for character acting is obvious.

I always find it so comical to go to a movie, and see movies like The Hours, About Schmidt, and Adaptation mingling with the new January releases like Just Married, Kangaroo Jack, and National Security. While Just Married is not as disappointing as its release date might indicate, it still qualifies as typical January fair. Just Married is a good comedy, yet a horrible romance. When they come together to form the entire body of Just Married, it makes up a disheveled film that cannot garner my recommendation.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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