As we enter into 2004, it is starting to look more and more like the year of the "Stiller". Comedic talent Ben Stiller has 5 films opening in the next 12 months. His first in that quintuplet is the new romantic comedy Along Came Polly that co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Reuben Feffer (Stiller) has had to endure a lot of stress recently in his life. His marriage to beautiful Lisa (Debra Messing) was destroyed and Reuben seems to be having the hardest time trying to land his largest insurance client (Bryan Brown) yet. He seems to have found some comfort in his new girlfriend Polly (Aniston), and his best friend Sandy (Hoffman) seems to be getting his acting thing going. The only problem is that there is a lot of risk in Reuben's life and he was really burned by Lisa. What is a Rueb to do?
Along Came Polly works as its loose style allows for the actors and the jokes to come. This isn't a solid story-driven comedy, but when the script allows for Aniston and Stiller to be themselves it can be quite funny.
The film is full of groaning toilet humor which does take away in part to some of the better belly-laughs, but this is a great improvement from Stiller's last comedy, Duplex.
Stiller is best when he is allowed to over-react to the inhuman situations his character is put in. I also really liked the performance of Hoffman as Stiller's annoying "has-been child-star" friend. He was a great opposite for Stiller's uptight insurance guy.
I found myself having a hard time trying to hate Debra Messing as Stiller's manipulative wife. I would have liked to have seen a harder edge or more insight on her dementia. Her character is a catalyst for the film and there is hardly anything done to show what's going on in her.
Hank Azaria as the nudist scuba instructor is another great character for the Azaria repertoire. He is as hilarious here as he was in America's Sweethearts where he was one of the hi-lites of that film.
I liked a lot of Polly, but found it didn't have a real edge unless you consider toilet humor a breakthrough. On the upside, this is definitely a return of the Ben Stiller we love. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.