Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
I will never eat free nuts from the bowl on the bar again, having seen "Along Came Polly." Not after hearing the expert risk-assessor Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) explain who has already handled them, what adventures they have had, and, for all we know, where they might have been. It's his job to know the risks of every situation, which is why his marriage seems like such a sure thing: His new bride Lisa (Debra Messing) is like a computer print-out of an ideal mate for life.
But it doesn't work out that way in "Along Came Polly," a movie where a lot of things don't work out, including, alas, the movie itself. On the second day of their honeymoon in St. Barts, Lisa cheats on Reuben with a muscular scuba instructor (Hank Azaria), and he returns to New York crushed and betrayed. When he meets Polly (Jennifer Aniston), an old school chum, he doubts they can be happy together (assessing the risks, he sees the two of them as totally incompatible), but to his amazement they are soon involved in a neurotic but not boring relationship.
The problem is that their relationship, and indeed Reuben's entire array of friendships and business associations, are implausible not in a funny way but in a distracting way: We keep doubting that this person would be acting this way in this situation. What kind of a risk assessor is Reuben if he knows he has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and nevertheless goes on a first date with Polly to dinner at a North African spice palace?
Yes, his dinner gives the movie the opportunity to launch one of those extended sequences involving spectacular digestive, elimatory and regurgitative adventures, but we're aware it's a set-up. As Stiller himself classically demonstrated in "There's Something About Mary," embarrassment is comic when it is thrust upon you by accident or bad luck, not when you go looking for it yourself.