Ben Stiller plays it safe in the story of a risk analyst who falls for kooky Jennifer Aniston in comedy romance Along Came Polly. Marking his third collaboration with director John Hamburg, it's steadfastly conventional compared with the grand-scale zaniness of Meet The Parents and Zoolander. Even so, it's a consistently amusing tale thanks largely to the eminently watchable cast.
On their honeymoon, Reuben Feffer discovers wife Lisa (Debra Messing), flippers in the air, with her scuba-diving instructor (Hank Azaria), and ricochets straight into the arms of ex-classmate Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston). Their chance meeting has him instantly fantasising about the picture-perfect life he's long-been planning for - even down to the throw pillows!
But Polly isn't into pillows. She's more your gauzy taffeta and crimped hair kinda gal, which - according to the Hollywood book on the human condition - translates as impulsive and undependable. As much as Reuben crunches the numbers in her favour, Polly remains a high-risk prospect, and when Lisa comes seeking reconciliation, the whole equation is thrown out of whack.
"CHARISMATIC AND GOOFY IN EQUAL MEASURE"
Stiller is, as always, charismatic and goofy in equal measure, exemplified in one of his sweatier scenes with Aniston: his battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome becomes his Waterloo (so to speak) when Polly invites him out to a Moroccan restaurant...
Philip Seymour Hoffman provides him with a solid comic anchor as the obligatory best bud, oozing smarmy indolence and, um, other excretions ("I just sharted").
The scatological humour doesn't always hit the mark though, with the old 'overflowing toilet' gag making its 237th appearance here. It's one of a few lazy clichés, including the one-kooky-mould-fits-all portrayal of Polly. Yet again, Aniston's gift for comedy is overlooked, serving mostly as a prop for Stiller's tomfoolery.
While it lacks the freshness and sincere dynamics of (the similarly pitched) Annie Hall (1977), Along Came Polly makes for a jolly evening out. You won't fall in love, but you'll have a few laughs and, at 90 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome.