"Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good.... For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Compensation"
One of the joys of being able to review films on DVD is watching things like "Miller's Crossing," "Dances With Wolves," "A Bug's Life," and "There's Something About Mary," films that arrived on disc at about the same time as "Just Married." One of the drawbacks to reviewing films is having to watch things like "Just Married." Emerson was right; there is payback in all things.
The 2003 movie stars Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher as newlyweds on a honeymoon from hell. Ms. Murphy is cute as a bug's ear, but the only contribution she makes to movie history in this film is her cleavage. Kutcher's earlier claims to fame were as a TV guy ("That '70s Show") and his role in "Dude, Where's My Car?" When I reviewed "Dude" a few years ago, I thought it was a "dumb, boring, numbskull" of a movie. Now, by comparison to "Just Married," it looks like an existential triumph of cinematic genius.
"Just Married" is the kind of film that starts out bad and keeps getting worse. Kutcher, playing the new husband, recounts in flashback the horrors of their disastrous European honeymoon, saying, "We had the perfect relationship that was ruined by marriage." Well, it isn't just his marriage that's ruined; it's about ninety-five minutes of a viewer's life. The whole thing looks and feels as though it were written for twelve-year olds by twelve-year olds. Nothing in it is funny.
The two principal characters are constantly being told how young they are to be married, yet both actors are in their mid twenties and look it. Maybe that is part of the joke. Anyway, for twenty-somethings they are immature beyond belief and should never have married anyone, let alone each other, until they'd grown up. In the opening scene she's throwing wet chewing gum in her husband's hair, and he's pushing baggage carts into her. It never gets any better.
Kutcher is Tom Leezak, a part-time radio traffic reporter and full-time annoying idiot and barbarian. Murphy is Sarah McNerney, a clumsy, spoiled little rich girl from Beverly Hills. They meet when he knocks her over with a football.
The movie is deceptively awful. It stars two attractive and charming people who are not given a thing to work with in a script that goes from bad to worse. Either nothing is happening or the two are screaming at and abusing each other every minute of screen time.
The movie's PG-13 rating takes the sexual situations as far as PG and innuendo will allow, made doubly odd since the couple never have sex, one of the running jokes in the film. OK, here are a few more of the gags: Tom's new mother-in-law insists that he call her by her pet name, Pussy. Tom gets his foot caught in an airplane toilet and bashes a stewardess's nose trying to get out. Tom has a fit when a hotel they're staying at in the Alps doesn't have a TV in their room. Tom plugs an electrical sex toy into the wrong wall socket and destroys the hotel's wiring. The couple's rent-a-car turns out mistakenly to be a mini mini. The couple get stuck in the snow. They throw a snowball at a passing car to get its attention, and the driver, an old lady, pushes their car off a cliff and flips them the finger. In Venice, Tom would rather watch American baseball on television than look at the local art. You get the idea.
Further complications arise when Sarah's old boyfriend, a snake named Peter Prentiss (Christian Kane), follows them to Europe and tries to win her back, while Tom takes up with an American airhead he meets in a bar. A mushy, sentimental, wholly preposterous ending winds it all up.
Not even a smile.
The movie is presented in two screen formats on flip sides of the DVD. First, there's an anamorphic widescreen version, measuring approximately a 1.77:1 ratio across a normal TV. Then, there's a full-frame, 1.33:1 ratio version, which, in fact, displays more information at the top and bottom of the picture than the widescreen, with no apparent loss of material at the sides. In other words, it appears that the full-frame is the original aspect ratio from which the widescreen was matted.
I watched in widescreen, anyway, and found the video pleasing. It was one of the film's few virtues. The colors are bright and mostly natural when they not in shadow; the screen is very clean and grain-free; jittery lines are practically nonexistent; and delineation is better than average. Dark areas of the screen do lose a bit of detail and definition, but, overall, it's a good picture.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is used to little advantage, mainly because the film is almost exclusively about bickering and shouting, which remains firmly fixed in the center channel. What surround sound there is comes in musical ambience reinforcement, something that can't help the loud, colorless music in any case. The front channel stereo spread is ordinary, the dynamics are ordinary, the frequency response is ordinary. The 5.1 soundtrack does what it can and goes by largely unnoticed.
The highlight of the bonus materials is a hyperactive trailer for "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" that, while not much, is more entertaining in its thirty seconds than the whole hour and a half of "Just Married." There is, not unexpectedly, an audio commentary that accompanies the film, this one with stars Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy and director Shawn Levy. Listening to it couldn't be any worse than watching the movie without it. Then, there are four, blurry deleted scenes with optional director commentary; plus a stupefyingly bad and fawning Comedy Central Reel Comedy segment about the movie, lasting an excruciating twenty minutes; a mercifully short, three-minute promotional featurette on "The Making of Just Married"; twenty-eight scene selections; a theatrical trailer; and two trailers for other Fox films, of which one is for the "LXG" I mentioned. English, French, and Spanish are the spoken language options, with English and Spanish for subtitles.
I don't think it's just my imagination when I say that Hollywood seems to be producing worse and worse comedies every year. Even bad comedies in the old days--say ten, twenty, thirty years ago--had a couple of good chuckles in them. Today, we get things like "Just Married" that don't evoke even a moment's pleasure. Clever repartee and inventive sight gags are replaced by banal chatter, glaring insults, and juvenile slapstick. It's only the movie's PG-13 rating that saves it from being grossly crude, as well.
Maybe it's the uninspired writing or the directors straight out of TV's "vast wasteland" who are fault; I don't know. The filmmakers appear to be aiming at a lowest common denominator and nailing it every time. Certainly, "Just Married" nails the lowest possible IQ in the audience by being as insipid as it is boring. Give me a good, old-fashioned, schlock horror flick any day; at least if it's bad, it can still provide a few good laughs. A bad comedy can't even do that.