The writer and star of
Reuben (Ben Stiller) evaluates risk for a living. When he marries Lisa (Debra Messing), he thinks he has a sure thing. But on the first day of their honeymoon she falls for a scuba instructor, and he returns home alone to an apartment filled with unopened wedding gifts.
He runs into Polly (Jennifer Anniston), a childhood friend, and he asks her out. Can a guy who spends eight minutes a day just putting away and taking out the decorative throw pillows for his bed find happiness with a non-planner, a risk-taker, an exotic-food-lover, and a key-loser?
More important, how many excrutiatingly embarrassing moments will we have to share with Reuben before we find out?
Oh yes, there are many, many “ewwwwwwwwwwww” moments ahead. Reuben’s face collides with a hairy, sweaty torso. Polly drops a candy bar on the street, picks it up, plucks off a hair, and eats it. A man still standing at a urinal wipes his hand on Reuben’s ear. On a first date, while trying to make a good impression, Reuben floods Polly’s toilet by using her grandmother’s embroidered hand-towel as toilet paper. Reuben is constantly struggling to hold in various bodily functions, from controlling his irritable bowel syndrome when he eats ethnic food to maintaining his sexual stamina when he becomes overexcited the first time he and Polly make love. And Polly’s almost-blind ferret keeps slamming into walls. If all of this strikes you as funny, then you probably don’t get out much and then this may be the movie for you when you do.
But you will still have to sit through a lot of dull filler subplots that waste the talents of the stars, including Reuben’s self-centered and obnoxious childhood friend (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a has-been actor still clinging to his one sucessful appearance in a John Hughes-style teen movie, salsa lessons, and a client prospect (Bryan Brown) who likes to jump off buildings and swim with sharks. The characters are overly generic, especially Reuben’s kvetching mother (Michelle Lee) and silent but deep father (Bob Dishy). Hank Azaria, newly Joe Piscopoed into a buff and muscular body that looks like a CGI effect, is wasted as a naked scuba instructor with a Pepe LePew accent. None of the characters are anything other than narrative conveniences and so it is impossible to care what happens to them. I challenge anyone to remember a week after the movie the big reveal about why Polly is such a commitment-phobe. And the attempt to make a bigger point about taking risks and letting go feels formulaic, even cynical.
Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual references and situations for a PG-13 including male nudity (full rear view), adultery, spanking as foreplay, and concerns about premature ejaculation. There is also a lot of explicit gross-out potty humor. Characters use strong language.
Families who see this movie should talk about how they assess risks and rewards and how different people are comfortable with different kinds of risks.
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