Ben Stiller excels in portraying excruciating and embarrassing love comedies. Along Came Polly follows this tradition, in the footsteps of There's Something About Mary, and others. The repetitious, Polly, however, fails even this task by playing all the same gags without much suspense or feeling.
Rueben Feffer (Ben Stiller) works as a risk analyst at a successful New York City insurance company headed by the sleazy Stan Indursky (Alec Baldwin). He wants nothing more than the wife, 2.5 children and a patrolled housing development in Connecticut. And indeed, it seems he will likely have it until his wife, Lisa (Debra Messing) leaves him on the first night of their honeymoon. A jilted Rueben runs into Polly (Jennifer Aniston) an old friend from junior high, and decides to ask her out. The anti-commitment, and presumably extremely risky, Polly proceeds to drag him out of his bland suburban mindset into the spice of Indian restaurants and Salsa dancing. Comic relief is provided by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Rueben's childhood friend and Bryan Brown as Leland Van Lew, the crocodile chasing businessman seeking life insurance.
While the movie grapples with the question of why Polly went out with Rueben in the first place the essential question is never actually answered. Polly is a beautiful and interesting woman that gets involved with a bumbling and boring man with whom she has nothing in common. However, I am willing to suspend my disbelief for this type of Stiller comedy. What Along Came Polly lacks in comparison to other of Stiller's films is any sense of suspense or uncertainty. The characters were so shallow that I was not sad when Rueben was dumped, nor was I anxious that he and Polly might not be together in the end. Neither Rueben or Polly was extreme enough to seem funny in their own right. Polly's risk taking seemed unabashedly tame. She moved from town to town, she eats in the East Village, and she dances in the evening. Any New Yorker could have one upped her. Rueben's character was written well enough that he really was as boring as you might be lead to believe in the beginning. But he wasn't particularly neurotic. He just had a mild case of irritable bowel syndrome and some bad luck. Again, any New Yorker, or anyone in my family for that matter, could have beat him in a contest of neuroses.
The supporting cast was a bit more extreme and in this way often, though not always, funnier. This is where the viewer finds the kind of characters we have come to love in the traditional Stiller movie: the idiots and egomaniacs who make us cringe because we honestly do know people that bizarre in our own lives. I particularly enjoyed the character Sandy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who still attempts to bask in the now faded glory of being a child star. And what could be more amusing than Alec Baldwin's shaking penis? But this is where the humor dries up. Writer and director John Hamburg doesn't even attempt to make Feffer's parents interesting, even though they appear repeatedly. There are hundreds, nay, thousands of models on which to base crazy parents, yet in Polly they remain unremarkably normal (and not the kind of normal that's funny). In the end the quiet father preaches a moral which I can't remember and Sandy becomes as listless and boring as the rest of the cast. Overall their interactions are like a painful Thanksgiving dinner, at which you only wish you could sit at the kids table. (And yet not painful enough to rival Stiller's other projects).
There were a few funny moments, such as counting to keep sex longer, getting whipped in the face by longed haired clubbers, or excessive throat clearing, but as I write they seem hardly worth sitting through 2 hours of some sad schmuck's story of how he met his future wife on the toilet. After several movies, and in fact after age 10, diarrhea just ceases to be hilarious.
If you already love Ben Stiller movies and have a six pack at your side, by all means stay for the laughs. If not, light your farts on fire and it might be more amusing.