Maybe Ben Stiller should take a break. Not a big one. Just a little breather. Along Came Polly is the first of his four 2004 releases, and it feels like a project coasted through between commitments, some freelance rom-com work to fill the few weeks where Owen Wilson or Janeane Garofalo are busy. Stiller could play Reuben Feffer, an over-cautious risk-management specialist, in his sleep, and Jennifer Aniston's work as the titular Polly -- down-to-earth yet worldly, always late and allegedly loveable -- feels almost remedial after her participation in The Good Girl. And oh, the plot turns they must suffer through! Reuben's marriage falls apart; he asks Polly out on the rebound; their personalities clash; there's even a variation on that old bit where the girl reads something mildly insensitive that the boy never meant for her to see; did Aniston, I wonder, find motivation for this scene from its appearance on Friends years ago?
The thing is, on paper this movie doesn't seem like a pointless timekiller -- or at least like such a forgettable one. The writer-director is John Hamburg, who previously worked with Stiller as a writer on Zoolander and Meet the Parents, two projects that make particularly good use of the actor's talent for silliness and embarrassment, respectively. And there's a fairly crack supporting cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, and Debra Messing. The lack of inspiration and the accompanying clichés about the value of "taking risks" and opposites attracting, then, are like a supernatural force, weighing the movie down. Like gravity, but more persistent.
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