(Movie review written 01/03)
To put it simply, "Just Married" is just awful. I hated this film, not only for what it was, but for the fact that it's so far from what it could have been. The film opens with a scene that takes advantage of the comedic talents of both its stars (former real-life couple Brittany Murphy and Aston Kutcher) with an airport arguement scene that seemed somewhat inspired by the party sequence of "Dumb and Dumber" where Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are hitting each other with canes as they enter a social event. There's an edgy mean-streak in this scene that suggested "Just Married" would be a teenage "War of the Roses", but unfortunately, it's nothing like that film.
The film stars Kutcher as Tom Leezak, a guy who does the traffic on the local radio on the overnight shift. He meets Sarah McNerney, a blond daughter of a wealthy family. They meet when he hits her in the face with a football on the beach. In reality, after being hit in the face with a football after a high pass, she probably wouldn't smile and offer a witty remark. About four minutes of screentime later, the two decide to get married, much to the dismay of her family. This all before we understand what they see in each other, as both are about as opposite as it gets.
After a fairly low-key wedding night, the two head off to France and Italy on their honeymoon, where they face disaster after disaster. An attempt by the two to have a quickie in an airplane bathroom is not particularly well-played, but worse yet, an unfunny gag is dragged far longer than it should have gone. Similar disasters occur: Tom nearly explodes a hotel by trying to plug in an American piece of "electronics" into a foreign outlet. It's obviously not meant to fit, but he forces it anyways. The two get stuck in (literally) a snow bank in the middle of nowhere. The two don't seem to share anything in common to talk about, as one scene has him leaving her behind because a local bar is playing the Dodgers game.
The movie is stuck in a seemingly endless loop: he breaks something or says something thoughtless, they yell at each other, they suddenly make up. Again and again, only in a different location. Given the fact that this is the first American teen comedy that takes place largely in stunning foreign locations, how about offering something fresh? I don't come into a movie like this expecting a lot, but there's a need for the basics: likable characters, fresh situations, funny dialogue.
Or, for that matter, even understanding the strengths of the talent involved. Kutcher ("That 70's Show", "Dude, Where's My Car") is really good at playing really stupid, as well as solid at physical comedy. But where those parts were funny because the characters didn't know any better, here Kutcher's playing an idiot who thinks he knows everything and never gets the idea (even after the electric shock after trying to plug in something to the wrong outlet) that he doesn't. Murphy is usually a wonderful actress, but she's given little to do here and even her infectious laugh doesn't pull together a film that contains so few laughs.
Somehow, someway, the film spins its wheels in the direction of a happy ending, even when the prior 80 minutes or so make the happy ending seem ridiculously, almost embarassingly phony. Although "Just Married" sounded like it had great potential, I have to say that it tops off my list of the year's worst at this early point in 2003.
VIDEO: "Just Married" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. Both presentations have their own single-layered side of a dual-sided disc. The presentation is nothing special. Sharpness and detail are inconsistent throughout; while definition and clarity are often satisfactory, the picture can occasionally appear soft. Not helping matters is the fact that the image here appears a tad dark - although not terribly so, the picture does seem noticably a shade darker than I remember it appearing theatrically.
However, other than that, there really wasn't much to be concerned with. Only slight edge enhancement was occasionally spotted, while no compression artifacts were seen. The print looked perfectly fine, with no specks, marks or grain. Colors were generally well-rendered, with occasional brighter colors standing out rather well.
SOUND: "Just Married" offers a pleasant Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Surrounds reinforce the enjoyable, light score and present the occasional ambient sound. Audio quality is fine, as sound effects remained crisp and clear, the music punchy and dialogue clean and natural.
Commentary: The DVD offers a commentary from director Shawn Murphy and stars Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy. The commentary doesn't offer nearly the kind of energy of Kutcher's track for "Dude, Where's My Car?", but it's a funny enough 95 minutes, nonetheless. The three offer plenty of praise for each other and the final product, but there's enough funny moments and insights on the production (I found it interesting, for example, when Levy talks about using the wrong lens in a scene, leaving Venice in the background completely out-of-focus) to make the commentary move along fairly well.
Deleted Scenes: 4 deleted scenes are offered with optional commentary from director Shawn Levy. The scenes are largely sappy, emotional moments. Although I didn't feel the final film's dramatic moments worked, there's a couple of clips here that are effective enough to have maybe deserved making it into the movie.
Also: A short featurette for "Just Married" and trailers for "Just Married", "Le Divorce" and "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" round out the extras on the widescreen side. The pan & scan side also has the commentary and 20-minute Comedy Central special "Reel Comedy". Hosted by an annoying comedian and not offering much beyond the usual praise and clips from the movie, the special is irritating and definitely not worth turning the disc over for.
Final Thoughts: "Just Married" has terrific locations and two talented leads, yet it can't seem to come up with anything involving. The film's dramatic moments don't work and the comedy is largely built on stale jokes. Fox's DVD offers average audio/video quality and supplements. Recommended for fans of the film only.
The Film * 1/2