½*/**** Image A Sound A- Extras C+
starring Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, David Moscow
screenplay by Sam Harper
directed by Shawn Levy
by Walter Chaw Just as 2002 began with Orange County, a disappointing, somewhat lacklustre comedy (though certainly nowhere near as terrible as the film I'm here to review), 2003 begins with Just Married, a comedy so dedicatedly unfunny that the best way to approach it would be through the perspective that it's actually meant to be disturbing. In fact, until the first line of dialogue about a minute in, the picture feels like a mordant, tongue-in-cheek, domestic-horror film--something along the lines of The War of the Roses. It doesn't take long for optimism to give way to extreme predictability, unrelieved puerility, and the creepy realization that Cristophe Beck's invasive score is a riff on Orff's "Musica Poetica," best known perhaps as the main theme to Terence Malick's own black love story Badlands. There seems a realization in other words that a better, darker film about America's fifty-percent divorce rate is waiting frustrated in Just Married's wings.
Tom (Ashton Kutcher) is a sports-loving dimwit from the wrong side of the tracks who meets-cute Sarah (Brittany Murphy) while she's running on the beach when he hits her in the face with a football. An avowed Dodger's fan wearing a Brian Urlacher jersey, Tom's confused West Coast/Midwest sports allegiances are only the first of the film's scattershot staccato continuity errors--sharing time with the sort of broad slapstick pratfalls (foot and nose violence, mainly, though Kutcher does score with a fine impression of Chris Farley) that define the kind of film that lists "Kid in the Bathroom" in its cast credits.
Murphy, once sort of appealing as either her trademark tramp or hallmark mental patient (she's a little of both in Just Married), allows her desperation to save this project to transform her into a spastic homunculus, her manic transformations from Cheshire grin to howling lament not aided by eleventh-hour edits that sacrifice (again like Orange County) whole segments glimpsed in the promotional campaign in the hope that a reckless pace will mask its witless devices. All such late-game carving ever really accomplishes is to show the seams in the movie-making process, in Just Married highlighting the weaknesses of a shake-and-bake plot, pasting a terrified look on Murphy's face, and trusting too much in the assumed charm of Kutcher's gaffed shtick.
The main problem with Just Married (skipping over the uncountable little problems) is that it doesn't seem to understand that the only hope it has for success is through some measure of self-knowledge. Instead, lockstep, it tries to redeem its dark undercurrent with an unforgivably sentimental finale (with the great Raymond Barry as Tom's dad) and tosses in a pidgin-spewing Asian butler for cheap comic relief when it notices that it's reserved its hate for the French (the other acceptable ethnic target). The saving grace is that Rob Schneider doesn't play the Asian--professional Uncle Tom Toshi Toda cashes in another paycheck in his stead. With an evil rich boyfriend (Christian Kane, who hears the music), a flag football scene, and an irritating dog that gets worked There's Something About Mary-style, Just Married is the sort of Eighties teensploitation falderal that wasn't good to begin with and is somewhere just north of repugnant now. Originally published: January 10, 2003.
by Bill Chambers Just Married is just garbage, a movie that treats its viewers like a glory hole--so forgive me if I can muster less than zero enthusiasm for writing this DVD addendum to Walter's review. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen configurations on opposite sides of a DVD-10, the only thing inoffensive about Just Married is its video transfer, a thing of precision colour, contrast, and detail. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is par for the comedy course, its rear-channel and LFE effects limited to reverb in the song selections. On the widescreen side of the platter (note that our preview copy reversed the widescreen/fullscreen labels), find four deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Shawn Levy, including laughably bad glistening-eyes moments from the two leads that Levy seems to think have gravity.
A 4-minute "making-of" featurette is shorter, at least, than the flipside's "Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Just Married" special, a 21-minute water-torture hosted by "Sex and the City"'s most annoying recurring player, Mario Cantone. Therein, Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy answer "Newlywed Game"-style questions while in bed (fully clothed, thank God) with Cantone. Meanwhile, Levy, Kutcher, and Murphy offer a feature-length group yakker that's infuriating for the number of times Levy says a master filmmaker influenced him; reality check: If you truly appreciated the cinematic contributions of Peter Weir or Terry Gilliam, you wouldn't be making Just Married. Trailers for Just Married, Le Divorce (starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen round out the disc. Originally published: May 25, 2003.