In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.
Any marriage is going to have its ups and downs. But what if those "downs" start happening the minute you step off the altar? Such is the premise of Just Married as blue-collar radio traffic announcer Tom Leezak (Ashton Kutcher) meets rich free-spirited writer Sarah McNerney (Brittany Murphy) and after a whirlwind romance they decide to get hitched. Oh if it could be that easy. Their course to true love has several strikes against it and the rest of the movie is spent figuring out if they are going to make it or not. Strike No. 1: Sarah's well-to-do parents (whose nicknames for each other range from "Pee-Wee" to "Pussy") are completely appalled she's marrying "beneath her." Strike No. 2: Sarah's sophisticated rich ex-boyfriend Peter (Christian Kane) the one Daddy McNerney (David Rasche) favors wants Sarah back. Strike No. 3: after they get hitched anyway the two young marrieds' honeymoon in Italy quickly turns horrific. In fact it's so unbelievably awful--from their small yellow box posing as a rental car being pushed off a mountain cliff to the cockroaches crawling over them as they try to make love in a run-down Venice shack to said ex-boyfriend showing up to thwart all that is good--your only hope is that they don't kill each other before they can get the sucker annulled. Of course we don't really believe they'll break up do we? We know better. With any good old-fashioned romantic comedy the power of love wins out. Blech.
It's not easy being relatively new faces in the film business and having a major feature film rest on your shoulders. Yet Kutcher and Murphy do their best with a formulaic script and some painful-looking physical comedy added in for good measure. It's evident the two click (so much so they became a real-life couple) so it's nice to wholeheartedly believe they are mad for one another. Their youthful appeal is about the only thing that saves the film from total drudge to be honest. Individually Kutcher gets to venture off from the one-note innocuously stupid guy he's played in movies such as Dude Where's My Car? and Fox's That '70s Show just a little to show some heartfelt moments especially when telling his new bride how much he loves her. To his credit he doesn't fail miserably at it. On the other hand Murphy who has the acting chops having handled meaty roles in dramas (Girl Interrupted) as well as comedies (Clueless) has nothing whatsoever to go on as Sarah. Clearly she must've been listening when her agent said "Do this movie! It'll be great for your career!" The rest of the cast blends in with Rasche being the only standout as Sarah's no-nonsense all-business millionaire dad.
You might feel sorry for this movie being released the second week of January just after an enormous onslaught of Oscar-touted films if it wasn't for the fact that 20th Century Fox obviously timed it to capitalize on the youth audience in a field of so-called "boring old people movies." Just Married is just the ticket for young people. Kutcher has developed a following after the surprising hit movie Dude Where's My Car? and Murphy just made a splash with Eminem in 8 Mile. The film has the age group 16-24 written all over it. But come on folks even good intentions to capture a certain market can't make up for a downright silly movie. Director Shawn Levy whose credits include 'tween flick Big Fat Liar and Disney Channel's The Famous Jett Jackson handles Just Married pretty much like his previous--broad and wacky with very little substance. The best part of the movie is the very beginning when the two newlyweds walk off the plane fuming and one-upping each other. Ah married life. The irony is duly noted but then the film goes straight into a flashback sequence lapsing periodically between pratfalls saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and gushy professions of love. Chalk it up to bad judgment.