Just Married

"Yeah, well I hope he taught you to pull a fire poker out of your ass!"

I liked this movie, which is strange, because it isn’t very good. I think I just had a funny day. Just Married is predictable, inessential and ultimately soggy, a classic January movie if ever there was one, and an unremarkable leading man debut for tv actor Ashton Kutcher. And yet… I dunno. It got me. I cared. Call it a miracle.

The film is an odd hybrid of teen comedy and traditional romantic comedy. The casting and marketing is clearly aiming to get the under-20 crowd into the theater, and yet, as the title suggests, the movie is about marriage, and neither member of the central couple has to work very hard to rope the other into bed, which eliminates the main plot thread of the American Pie school of cinema. Both genres have suffered from a dearth of new ideas, and so Just Married should be commended for at least attempting to juggle them in a unique way.

Kutcher, who’s become a minor star thanks to his stint on That 70′s Show, plays Tom Leezak, a lowly late-night traffic reporter on a local radio station, who meets Sarah McNerney (Brittany Murphy), a girl from a prominent wealthy family. They hit it off despite the nagging socioeconomic gap, and nine months later, they’re engaged, a fact that comes as a shock to Sarah’s relatives, who find the unkempt, unpolished Tom completely unacceptable. They find they have to make the best of it, as Tom and Sarah have their hearts set on spending the rest of their lives with each other. After an uneventful wedding, they take off on what will be a very eventful honeymoon in Europe.

The opening scenes show the two of them returning from Europe, and we see that their relationship has been destroyed to the point where they are deliberately trying to cause each other physical pain. The movie then flashes back to their first date, their wedding, and their honeymoon, on which everything that can possibly go wrong does. Tom gets them kicked out of their posh and oh-so-very-French hotel with his American machismo, which includes trying to force an American electrical appliance into a European outlet. To make matters worse, they run into the rich, relentless snob who was all but betrothed to Sarah until she decided to break the mold.

It’s obvious from the get-go that, despite the morbid opening, Just Married will have its young couple happily together again before the credits roll. Oddly, I wanted this to happen. Murphy and Kutcher have a rare screen chemistry; rather than feeling my usual malevolence towards this unreasonably attractive Hollywood couple, I was filled with goodwill towards the spunky kids. It’s a positive thing when, in a romantic comedy, you can actually root for the guy and girl to get (back) together.

I don’t have much to tell you about the script. But for the rare exception, the genre prohibits anything edgy or overly clever from making it to the final draft. Sam Harper’s screenplay is affable enough, sweet and occasionally funny, waiting until the final moments to deteriorate into syrupy goo I was expecting all along. It makes fun of the French a couple of times, and has the line “pride is the clutch of the weak” spoken by a random truck driver. I’ll take it.

I’ll take this movie, in fact, especially in January, and especially after seeing Kangaroo Jack. Many will gripe, I’m sure, and they will mostly be justified; this is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. It just so happens that it was a decent run of a well-constructed mill.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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