According to various unreliable sources on the Internet, Just Married co-stars Ashton Kutcher (forever to be known as the star of Dude, Where's My Car?) and Brittany Murphy (who wears way too much scary makeup even when she isn't playing mental patients who'll never tell) are now actually planning to marry each other. Chances are it's merely a well-orchestrated publicity stunt by Fox, but if it isn't, more's the pity; it'd be a shame to have to look back and tell the kids that this was the movie that brought mom and dad together.
That Just Married feels like a waste is more unfortunate than if it had starred, say, Rob Schneider. Unlike many one-dimensional comedy leads, Kutcher and Murphy both have talent and charisma and are about due for leading roles. Clearly, however, they're in no position to be picky, and even their charms can't quite save a script (by Sam Harper, who wrote Rookie of the Year) that barely exists save for the usual "Europeans are different from us" gags cribbed from National Lampoon's European Vacation, and a bit with a dog directly lifted from There's Something About Mary. There are also two apparent running gags that are never funny in the least the bride's mom is named Pussy, and every character in the movie remarks that our lead couple looks too young to be married. Yes, and . . . ?
As written, the two lead characters are as bland as can be in movie terms: Tom (Kutcher) is a sports fan who, um, likes sports. He also drinks beer (Bud Light, just so you know). Since male leads in flicks of this caliber are all required to have a quirky job, he's a substitute traffic reporter on the graveyard shift at a radio station. Sarah (Murphy) has improbably listened to him and even called in on one occasion, so we know it's meant to be. She also likes sports, but the rest of her background is painted in equally broad strokes: She wears pink, has a hideous dog that resembles an albino Yoda on all fours and is the daughter of a pompous multimillionaire (David Rasche) who thinks any regular guy isn't good enough for his little girl, whom he refers to as "Pee-wee."
So the happy duo get married, but since the movie opens with them returning from a honeymoon ready to kill each other (he shoves her into a coffee stand, she throws gum in his hair, he rams a baggage cart into her, etc.), we know that all will not go right. Mainly because the honeymoon is in Europe, where buildings are old, cars are small, people are fat (slander! Americans on average are far more overweight) and electrical outlets use different voltage. Are you laughing yet?
Sarah's also still being pursued by her ex-boyfriend (Christian Kane), who happens to be a business partner of her dad's. Showing a predictable lack of judgment, she assumes the best of intentions on his part, when in fact . . . never mind. Like you can't guess. Let's just say that the fact that he references Machiavelli is the film's sole attempt at sophistication. Director Shawn Levy's Big Fat Liar looks pretty smart by comparison.
Kutcher, who for the first time in living memory isn't playing a total dumb-ass, seems to have studied the best in preparation for the role his increasing exasperation-cum-fury that provides the film's major laughs is at times reminiscent of John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. The material and supporting characters suffer grievously by comparison. Murphy, who more or less has to play the straight woman, has good chemistry with her co-star, but not much else. By the time the newlyweds end up in Venice (Italy, not California, though it was probably filmed there), the story's gone so flat that you may feel like a browbeaten spouse trapped in a loveless marriage.
If there's anything valuable at all about Just Married, it's that the movie doesn't offer the usual happily ever after, but rather points out that love can be difficult, and your partner may at times piss you off more than anyone else in the world. Maybe the teen demographic for which this movie aims needs to know that. On the other hand, they most likely came looking for a brainless romantic comedy with some good laughs, so here's a tip: Go see Two Weeks Notice instead.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.