My opinion of Ben Stiller is that he can be really good only when he has the right script and director behind him. He was great in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums but he was not in Zoolander, co-written and directed by Stiller himself. Stiller also directed The Cable Guy, so yeah, you know what I'm saying. Along Came Polly was written and directed by John Hamburg, who co-wrote another Stiller hit, Meet the Parents. But he also co-wrote Zoolander. Unfortunately for Stiller, and moviegoers, the Hamburg who wrote Zoolander showed up on the set to Along Came Polly, and while there are some very very funny parts in this movie, there are more that are just plain, well, Zoolander.
Along Came Polly is a movie about this paranoid pansy named Reuben Feffer (Stiller). He analyzes risk for a life insurance company so he spends his whole life on this straight-and-narrow plan where he, for example, can't eat peanuts at a bar or play basketball with guys who don't wear their shirts. He lives his life by the percentages, and he's as organized as they come. But there's a big monkey wrench thrown in the works of his plan when his new wife leaves him on his honeymoon for a buff (in more ways than one) scuba instructor (Azaria). So he's lonely and depressed for awhile until, yeah, you guessed it, along came Polly (Aniston). Polly Prince, that is, who he knew briefly as a child and who as a very-hot adult (damn you Brad Pitt!), will turn his life upside down.
There were a few things that surprised me in this movie. The thing that surprised me the most is how built Hank Azaria got for this movie. Maybe he was that built all along, but I didn't expect that at all from a guy who's best known for providing many of the voices on The Simpsons. Another thing that surprised me was that the normally-great Jennifer Aniston and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were, for the most part, off their marks. While Aniston seemed like the perfect actress to portray Polly, and she does do a fairly decent job, the role was so dumbed-down, especially compared to her great performance in The Good Girl, it surprised me that she took the part. O.K., Bruce Almighty wasn't that good, but she was pretty good in it. And Hoffman turns in probably his worst performance here. Some of his bits were funny, though. I couldn't stop laughing at the "Let it rain!" parts where they're playing basketball and he can't make a shot to save his life. But overall his performance as a washed-up actor falls well below his other great performances in the last few years. But the only pleasant surprise was the great performance from Alec Baldwin. This movie really needed more of him, and less of Hoffman, because Baldwin is just hilarious and on-point as Reuben's eccentric boss Stan. Or as Stan would say, his performance was "Good things."
And then there was Stiller. Yeah, not so "Good things." If you haven't noticed over the years, Stiller pretty much plays the exact same guy in almost every movie he stars in. There are a few notable exceptions such as his wonderful performances in "Permanent Midnight" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," but for the most part, he plays the same guy: the shy, nice guy who's afraid to make changes in his life until Act III in the movie tells him to. Well, he's that guy again in this movie, and it's just getting old. When he goes outside the proverbial box of this type of character, he's usually pretty good. It just seems that he doesn't want to go outside of this character that much. It's just the same old song-and-dance for Stiller here, and while it might have worked on some level with There's Something About Mary, it just doesn't work here.
The script here is as predictable as they come. I'm sure you could surmise what happens in the whole movie from just watching the trailer. I know I did. There is some nice dialogue from Baldwin's Stan character, and some pretty funny bits here and there, like Aniston purposefully filling glasses with the wrong wine in her waitressing job. But when you watch the movie, there are so many bits and pieces blatantly stolen from other movies it's sick. Let's see, the plot is a sort-of weird hybrid from parts of The Wedding Singer, Anything Else, Saving Silverman and probably a ton of other movies that I just can't recall right now. They steal the overflowing toilet bit from Dumb and Dumber and they even stole from the wonderful Kevin Smith's Silent Bob character, with Reuben's father who never speaks in the movie, except for one profound line at the end. I mean, come on. But, for all its faults, the story does flow fairly nicely and there's a nice transformation of Reuben's character, even though it's unoriginal and predictable.
Director John Hamburg is decent at the helm, but it seemed like he either wanted too much or too little out of his characters. There are also some just terrible transitions between scenes, notably one where the big yacht Stiller and Aniston are on, as the guest of a rich guy who needs life insurance, crashes into a rock, and the next scene is the three of them on a lifeboat. I mean, they didn't need a Titanic-like sinking scene here, but there could've been a lot more.
Along Came Polly is a movie about how opposites attract, I guess. There is some stuff here that we haven't seen before, but there's a lot more that we have seen here. The few things that are funny, are very very funny. But the rest is, well, remember Zoolander?