Along Came Polly (2004)

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Released 7-Jun-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-John Hamburg (Director)
Alternative Version-Original Opening, With Optional Director's Commentary
Featurette-Rodolfo Goes Hollywood
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
Outtakes
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 86:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Hamburg
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Ben Stiller
Jennifer Aniston
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Debra Messing
Alec Baldwin
Hank Azaria
Bryan Brown
Jsu Garcia
Michele Lee
Bob Dishy
Missi Pyle
Judah Friedlander
Kevin Hart
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Mark Everett
Theodore Shapiro


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Along Came Mary, erm, sorry, Along Came Polly is a film in which Ben Stiller chases a woman (played by Cameron Diaz, no wait, I mean Jennifer Aniston) he knew years ago in school, going through numerous trials in order to win her affections. Okay, that may be a little harsh, but all joking aside, Along Came Polly is close enough in style to the Farrelly brothers' seminal comedy There's Something About Mary that it could almost be call a re-working (or that favourite of Hollywood buzzwords, a re-imagining). The major positive of this is that if there was any comedy from the late 90's worth modelling a film on, it would have to be the Ben Stiller/Cameron Diaz starrer.

    Along Came Polly sees Ben Stiller at his usual game of playing lovable losers, this time in the role of Reuben Feffer. The movie opens at his wedding to Lisa Kramer (an excellent Debra Messing), and moves quickly from there to the honeymoon on the Caribbean island of St. Barts (or at least Hawaii doubling for St. Barts). At this point it seems to be a sweet romantic comedy, but things quickly take a turn for the worse when Reuben returns to pick Lisa up from a scuba lesson and finds her in bed with the instructor. Oops. Returning a shattered man to his New York life, Reuben prepares to hit the dating scene again with some "help" from his friend Sandy Lyle (Philip Seymour Hoffman making a rare comedy appearance), and it is at a party that Sandy drags him along to that he meets (or rather, is spotted by) old school friend Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston). Polly is the antithesis of everything about Reuben, yet he is strangely attracted to her. In the process of courting Polly, Reuben will be the most uncomfortable, physically and emotionally, that he has ever been, yet he will persevere despite all odds to try to win the heart of Polly, and of course, just as things seem to be going well, Lisa arrives back on the scene. Oh, and there is some sub-plot about life insurance and an Australian thrill-seeker played by Bryan Brown - not that you would notice.

    With a plot that is wafer thin, the film revolves mostly on the chemistry of its two leads. Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller work reasonably well together, although Aniston maintains an air of "interested disinterest" for the most part, and while it fits the flighty character of Polly, it does not help strengthen the relationship. On an individual basis, Stiller is at his likeably monkey-man best again, carrying the audience along with his hopes and dreams. Aniston mostly puts her famous Rachel persona in the closet for this outing and does a reasonable job of making the audience fall for her, although the Friends character does seem to pop up from time to time (and when she does, it is quite disconcerting). Jennifer Aniston is no Cameron Diaz, but she works well enough. Philip Seymour Hoffman is deadly serious as Reuben's obnoxious and arrogant washed-up actor friend, an approach that tends to work less well than it should, while Debra Messing shows up Jennifer Aniston in her limited role, demonstrating more than enough screen presence to prove that she deserves her own turn at a lead role. The real stand-out performance of the film however is Hank Azaria. The man best known for being the voice of Moe, Apu, and many, many others in The Simpsons, and for a small role as dog walker Nat on ex-wife Helen Hunt's long-running TV show Mad About You, he is virtually unrecognisable here as Claude, the French nudist scuba instructor who steals Reuben's new wife. In a role that could have simply been mean, he makes the character sympathetic, at the same time as being incredibly funny (his delivery of the line "look to me in my eyeball" is a true classic).

    The comedy in this film is quite clearly divided into two types - toilet and non-toilet. Writer/director John Hamburg obviously believes in the adage that a film cannot have too many fart jokes. Or too many toilet scenes. Or too many graphic descriptions of bad toilet experiences. Respectfully, there is only one thing to say to him - there can, and this film proves it. By the time Reuben is flooding Polly's bathroom after attempting to flush her towel at around the forty minute mark, the number of toilet jokes has become quite ridiculous. Fortunately, from this point on the film settles down and we get more traditional humour. It would be more forgivable if the toilet humour was at least funny, but as most of it is painfully un-funny (the worst being Sandy's explanation of what it means to "shart" - think about it), it makes the start of the film drag.

    It would be easy to say that this is a low-rent clone of an earlier film, such are the similarities between this and There's Something About Mary. Reuben Feffer is just an older Ted Stroehmann who has taken longer to find his Mary, the films both combine low-brow humour with truly clever comedy, and they both star Ben Stiller. All that is not entirely fair however, as Along Came Polly is enjoyable in its own right, even for those who are more than familiar with the Farrelly brothers' break-out effort, although it is missing one crucial ingredient that Mary had - the Matt Dillon character. In the Farrelly comedy, he was the crazy to Stiller's normal, and with lines like "I like to work with retards", took pressure off Stiller to be constantly funny. In this film, Philip Seymour Hoffman is deadly serious, while Alec Baldwin, Bryan Brown, and Hank Azaria are barely in the film, leaving Ben Stiller to carry both the emotion and humour for the majority of the time, and the dual roles start to take their toll.

    In the end, Along Came Polly is a decently fun film. It has too much toilet humour to be described as truly "romantic", and too much romance to be "gross out", but it is an amusing enough way to spend an hour and a half and is guaranteed to raise a chuckle. Definitely worth a rent, while only the die-hard Stiller or Aniston fans will really need to consider adding it to their collections.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is actually a little disappointing. That is not to say it is all that bad, but for a new release movie, it is definitely below average.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is not all that sharp, with a resultant reduction in the level of fine detail visible. It does not really reach the point of softness, having more of a smooth appearance (which in itself is not entirely a bad thing), but it is a look that does not entirely suit the film. Not helping the matter is the constant low level of background grain. The grain is well controlled and never becomes an overwhelming problem, but it gives the film a slightly "dirty" look that once again does not suit its tone. This could have been an intentional choice, but if so, it is a poor one for what is supposed to be a relatively light-hearted romantic comedy. On the plus side, shadow detail is very good, with the darker scenes of the movie containing plenty of depth. There is no low-level noise present.

    Colours are a little lacking, but this is due to the shooting locations having fairly simple colour palettes (for the most parts blacks and whites, or browns) rather than an actual problem with the colours themselves. On the rare occasions where there are vibrant colours on offer, they are well rendered and fairly seem to pop off the screen, especially in comparison to the remainder of the transfer.

    There are no compression artefacts in this film, and at only 86 minutes (and on a dual-layered disc at that), that is a good thing. The same cannot be said for film artefacts, as the entire film contains tiny flecks. Most are so small that they are not worth worrying about, apart from causing a minor nuisance and showing the print to not be all that clean, but there are a few larger blobs, such as at 12:00, or 71:35, that do draw attention to themselves. This is extremely disappointing, as film artefacts are the one thing a new release movie (and especially a relatively high-profile one) should be able to avoid completely. Aliasing is also a problem, and while not present on every straight line in the film, it occurs on a frequent enough basis to be a nuisance, with the oven grille between 39:57 and 40:27, and the racquet-ball glasses between 52:50 and 53:00 being the most noticeable.

    The subtitles are rather inaccurate and tend to abbreviate words more often then they do not. This reduces the comedy of some of the situations, which is disappointing.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 56:52 between Chapters 14 and 15, and it is an extremely good example of how to do a layer change the right way - I could not pick the change with the naked eye on three viewings of the film, and even once you know where it is, it is virtually impossible to spot. Located in the middle of a scene, it is placed on a static shot that has no sound. The shot would normally hold still for a short time, so the added time of the layer change is not really noticed. Great work.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This audio transfer is quite serviceable, and is of an equivalent calibre to most of the other big films in this genre.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. The first two are the original English dialogue, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 kbps) and DTS 5.1 (at half-bitrate). The third track is the audio commentary track presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 192 kbps). The inclusion of a DTS track here is somewhat puzzling, as the audio transfer is hardly one that demands high-fidelity.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. There are no problems throughout the transfer.

    Audio sync is correct for the most part, but a few lines do slip out from time to time in both the DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks (and at the same times too), such as at 29:58 and 69:03.

    The score is credited to Theodore Shapiro, and is relatively standard fare, combining more modern sounds with a standard orchestral-type score to provide a mostly up-beat backing for the movie. In addition to the score there are a number of contemporary songs included throughout the movie that sometimes work incredibly well, and sometimes just sound completely out of place.

    Surround activity is virtually non-existent, with the surround really only raising more than a whimper during the storm sequence on the yacht. While disappointing, this is relatively normal for this type of film, and as such is not as large a drawback as it could otherwise have been.

    Like the surrounds, the subwoofer tends to have little to do. It backs up the score and the other songs from time to time, but for the most part sits dormant, waiting for the next action film to be inserted into the DVD player.

    The comparison between the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks leaves no clear winner, as neither track goes anywhere close to pushing the limits of either sound format, leaving the DTS track to be more of a gimmick than anything else.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras presented here are not all that extensive, although what is presented is (with a couple of exceptions) quite good.

Menu

    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. As with all Universal releases, it has the habit of starting the movie after a few loops of the main menu, which is an extremely annoying "feature" that Universal should do away with as soon as possible. No other major studio persists with the practice, so why Universal insist on it is a mystery.

Original Opening, with optional director's commentary (1:35)

    Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and with plenty of timers in the black borders, this is the original, and far less interesting, opening to the movie. Suffice it to say that it was a good thing the opening was reshot.

Featurette: Rodolfo Goes To Hollywood (4:41)

    This "comedic" look at one of the "stars" of the film is a flat boring four minutes spent with an un-funny host and a far too over-pampered ferret. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Deleted scenes, with optional director's commentary (6:07)

    From what director John Hamburg says during his commentary (feature commentary that is), this collection of deleted scenes is only a small percentage of the total number of deleted scenes created in the making of the movie. Why we only have these is then a mystery, however not one of them is compelling enough to be placed back in the film, so it is probably a good thing that the other scenes will forever remain on the cutting room floor. Presented at 1.33:1 (with more timers), not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Outtakes (4:35)

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this is mostly four minutes of Ben Stiller laughing at the wrong time, and in one scene in particular laughing all the time. Not the greatest of outtake reels by a fair margin.

Making of Along Came Polly

    Better than the average making of, this short featurette covers all the principal cast, and contains quite a bit that should be of interest. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Audio Commentary - John Hamburg (Director)

    This is a fairly good commentary, with director Hamburg talking almost continuously throughout the movie. He talks quite naturally, and imparts plenty of interesting information, from shooting locations, to character details. Worth listening to - even if he seems to think he was a genius to write in numerous toilet jokes.

Theatrical Trailer (2:29)

    Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 5.1 audio this is the trailer for the film. It is a good trailer, and surprisingly leaves most of the best comedic and romantic moments out, preferring to concentrate on the "gross out" style humour.

DVD Credits (0:58)

    Yes, this is a one minute long video of people who worked on the DVD. Let us all rejoice.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD is not due for release internationally for a few weeks yet. Until reviews of the Region 1 version are posted, it is not possible to do a direct cross-comparison, but from the available pre-release specifications, there will be little difference between the two releases, with the Region 1 set to add a "Cast and Filmmakers" section, and some DVD-ROM extras to the features available on the Region 4. If this turns out to be the case, then there would be little reason to prefer one version over another, so grab it where you find it cheapest.

Summary

    Along Came Polly is a reasonably funny comedy that does tend to resemble There's Something About Mary - not that that is necessarily a bad thing. Worth a rent, and possibly a purchase for Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston fans.

    The video quality is rather average, with a dirty print full of film artefacts, and a soft transfer that still manages to suffer from aliasing in a major way.

    The audio quality is about standard for this type of film, presenting almost no surround action, but otherwise doing a solid job.

    The extras are relatively small in number, but are mostly quite interesting, so make a nice little package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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