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Movie Review: Just Married

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Every so often I encounter a film that can only be described by one word: excremental. Just Married is the latest film to have earned that honour, but there is room for merriment for it shall likely not be the last. This 2003 Ashton Kutcher vehicle was running on the music video channel because that’s what all music video channels do these days — they play bad movies aimed at the pre-teen to teen demographic.

Just Married, directed by Shawn Levy, ties perfectly into that precious demographic and captivates the doe-eyed individuals with Kutcher’s sycophantic looks and senseless countenance. Somehow Mr. Kutcher has become a star among this group of ignorant young people and Just Married aims to exploit this capitulation of good sense for about 90 minutes.

It’s no wonder that Just Married trotted its idiotic wares out to audiences in January of 2003, for that’s usually the time that film studios dump their dead weight. This year is no exception, of course. Behold Jessica Alba’s The Eye or Fool’s Gold or Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins or Meet the Spartans or 27 Dresses. I think you get my drift. So it stands to reason that the Mensa members at Twentieth Century Fox should drop this one on audiences in January and that it should live on in syndication hell on MTV and other similar “kiddie” networks for years to come. The sadomasochist in me, then, decided watching this one would be a good idea.

Kutcher stars as Tom Leezak, a brainless and witless young man with rage issues that are emphasized with humorous glee. Consider him a sort of Adam Sandler lite. Leezak and Sarah McNerny (Brittany Murphy) are coming back from their honeymoon in Europe and are verbally abusing one another. Obviously the relationship is in shambles and we are about to find out why (yippee!).

Leezak generates a flashback and we’re off to the meeting of the couple, the wedding, and the honeymoon. The film traipses its audience around Europe as our loving couple dotingly look into one another’s eyes and try to have a good time. Of course, we’re to believe that all manner of catastrophe keeps on befalling the poor couple, but the reality is that there is much more to this chaos than meets the eye.

Leezak fortuitously killed Sarah’s dog and Sarah fortuitously slept with Peter Prentiss (Christian Kane). Of course, like any good couple in Hollywood films about love and marriage, they don’t tell each other any part of this and merely get married. With the foundation of dishonesty firmly undamaged, it’s off on the honeymoon where Sarah and Tom personify every ferocious and dim-witted stereotype of an American overseas as can be imagined. Their obnoxiousness is played up as comic relief and their tastelessness towards each other and those that happen to be in this train wreck of a film is supposed to be raucously hilarious.

It’s not hilarious. The repetition of head injuries or head impact “jokes” is beyond belief, as we begin and end the film with a multitude of “object meets head” gags that represent just how endowed Kutcher is at corporeal farce. This provided me with some reprieve from the psychosis, as I began praying for a concussion. Nonetheless, the film’s ennui with its gags is detestable and cheap. The characters build on this skeleton of stylized physical jesting by assembling a brat pack of idiot friends and counterparts. Each friend each character has in the film gives them objectionable counsel, from Tom’s father (“Live from one happy snapshot to the next, son”) to Sarah’s maid of honour (“If you feel like quitting, just pass out”). These idiots are not only played up to be pragmatic advice-givers, but the affecting and sappy music that accompanies their “words of translucent wisdom” drives the point home with the nuance of, well, an Ashton Kutcher performance.

Just Married presses things too far without fail, outrunning the running gags by miles. Having sex in a tiny bathroom on an airplane is set up as a gag, for instance, but instead of playing the moment for what it is, we’re treated to an incongruous attempt at physical comedy and maltreatment towards a stewardess, causing any prospect for laughter to flush itself right down the toilet of the plane. The stupidity simply keeps on coming and it reminded me of the drunk at the bar who starts out being placidly entertaining but very quickly pushes things too far and becomes xenophobic, racist, and homophobic, turning the delight to dread. That’s what Kutcher and Co. manage to do with this atrocity. It’s bad enough that it’s not original, that it’s lackadaisical, and that it’s not amusing. It’s worse when they push things to the limits and expect audiences to swallow it hook, line, and stinker.

The film’s polluted definition of love and marriage covers all manner of loathsome and abusive wrongs that these characters (mostly Tom) do to one another. Tom and Sarah are dense, they deserve each other, and they deserve what they get. The comedy here is not about what happens to these people in Europe and how incidents occur to put a damper on things. Instead, the comedy attempts to worthlessly mine the idea that a couple should suffer all manner of abuses, rage explosions, assaults, and other insensitive situations all in the name of Hollywood “love.” That notion, quite frankly, is odious and so is Just Married. It’s a brainless, stupid film.

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