Just Married Movie Review

In the screwball honeymoon-gone-wrong comedy "Just Married," giddy-in-love newlyweds Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher are simply too exhausted for sex on their wedding night. Then the next day, a series of mishaps derails their attempt to join the "mile-high club" on their flight to Europe.

There's no nookie that night in their five-star castle-hotel either, because they get 86-ed for blowing out the electrical system by forcing the plug of an American sex toy into a European socket. And the next night in a Venice flop house the mood is spoiled by cockroaches.

Starting to sense a pattern?

The nutty fragrance of a less racy 1960s sex farce hangs in the air as all of this sexual frustration leads the happy couple to a big blow-up, the results of which comprise the film's opening scene: Murphy and Kutcher return from Europe so mutually vindictive that as they walk through the airport to their car, they go out of their way to take ruthlessly funny pot shots at each other. He pushes her into a bystander who spills his coffee down her shirt. She pulls the bubble gum out of her mouth and throws it into his hair, and so on.

Sweetly sexy, supremely underrated Murphy (best known for "Clueless," "Don't Say a Word" and "8 Mile") and dumb-funny delight Kutcher ("That '70s Show") are a pretty well matched comedy team, playing a couple nobody thought would last. He's a graveyard-shift traffic reporter for a news radio station who lives in a low-rent bachelor loft. She's the pampered but down-to-earth daughter of a multi-millionaire businessman (David Rasche from the brilliant, short-lived 1980s cop comedy "Sledge Hammer!"), whose whole family thinks she can do much better.

Their comfortable, charismatic, cute-couple chemistry together breathes spontaneity into their well-written, often overlapping dialogue, and infectious fun into their many predicaments. In one of the funniest scenes in the movie, Kutcher tries to comfort Murphy on their wedding night when she has a Lucille Ball-like breakdown after realizing that her childhood wedding fantasies are all over now and that "Oh my god! Tomorrow my parents are gonna know I'm not a virgin anymore!"

It's just a pity writer Sam Harper and director Shawn Levy ("Big Fat Liar") can't seem to keep the plot at the same level as the acting. When these two meet in Kutcher's how-did-it-all-go-wrong flashback, its because she got bonked in the head by a football he threw on the beach -- a contrivance that has been trite since the days of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

What's worse, "Just Married" fails to adequately sow the seeds of annoyance that bring about the couple's big fight, since they kiss and make up after every little conflict. Being in love will do that, so in a way this makes them more likable and more human. But there's no build-up, so when they finally fray and turn into amusingly petty love-hate enemies, it has far more to do with where Levy is in the script than with where Murphy and Kutcher are in their relationship.

The storytelling is sometimes sloppy (Kutcher says he "blew the proposal," but if that's true, it must have been left on the cutting room floor) and sometimes hackneyed (a rich rival for Murphy's affections is shoe-horned into the plot). And I really could have done without the twinkly score, the girlie-pop musical montages and the violin-accompanied Author's Message scene in which Kutcher seeks reconciliation advice from his father.

But none of these problems impede the movie's funny concept and fun performances -- and that's what counts.

The comedy is consistently clever ("Look babe! It comes with free nuns," Kutcher cracks when passing some holy sisters in their first hotel). The characters are never caricatures (this is not one of those insulting "romantic comedies" in which the "happy ending" consists of the woman taking back the misbehaving man). And while Kutcher proves he has more range than just playing "duh"-mb guys (see also "Dude, Where's My Car?"), Murphy absolutely shines, proving herself a tremendous comedienne.

If this movie is a hit, she's headed for a Reese Witherspoon-like rise -- hopefully without abandoning her sometimes quirky taste in scripts the way Witherspoon has.

Comments

Just Married Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, Opened: Friday, January 10, 2003

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