Two Lies and a Truth: 'Jack and Jill' Reviewer Edition

The fine art of praising Adam Sandler

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Let's hear it for the underdogs: Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill has made a heroic climb this morning from a zero percent score on Rotten Tomatoes to a two percent. Who knows how high it can get? Here at The Atlantic, Scott Meslow ran with the critical majority, labeling the flick's titular Jill—played by Sandler, who also plays Jack—"a contender for the most irritating cinematic character of the year, if not the decade." There are, of course, other views.

The Awl's Alex Balk says you "should totally see this movie":

The fact that Jack and Jill are twins speaks directly to the dualities inherent in all of us. Sandler and Dugan want us to consider who we are on the most basic existential level, what we show and what we hide as we make our way through life. The very traits that Jack finds so irksome in Jill are, of course, extensions of his own nature, jagged reminders of what he's repressed as he has chased success in his chosen field and attempted to create the perfect family life. (In an interesting bit of casting, Katie Holmes, whose own domestic relationship has been the subject of much analysis concerning public face v. private motivation, plays his wife.)

At Moviefone, Mike Ryan posits Jack and Jill as "the most important movie ever made":

The film stars an actor by the name of Adam Sandler ('Bulletproof') as Jack Sadelstein. But before we can really learn about Jack Sadelstein, we must, first, understand Jack's twin sister, Jill Sadelstein. Unless you've done your research beforehand, it may come as a surprise to learn that Sandler also plays the role of his own sister. In any other situation, I'd be hesitant to share this information, knowing that once the illusion is revealed, it could prove detrimental to the message that 'Jack and Jill' so urgently wants to convey. But Sandler so effortlessly transforms himself into Jill Sadelstein that, even armed with this information, you may still want to doubt the accuracy of what I'm telling you. Fair enough! The performance is just that nuanced.

And at City Arts, a critic named Armond White—maybe you've heard of him—calls the movie "hilarious":

In Jill drag, Sandler looks like young women you see on the subway; she's a homely archetype Fanny Brice, Judy Canova and Martha Raye made popular. (Eddie Murphy also mastered this comic affection in The Klumps and Norbit.) Credit Sandler's subtle feminine caricature--especially in dancing and athleticism--that avoids making Jill a clownish grotesque like Tyler Perry's Madea. Perry's drag is based in parodying ethnic shame. In Jack and Jill Sandler embraces rude, crude and earthy in ways that Tyler Perry wouldn't dare. Or will he ever?

Sandler's real dare is to defend ethnicity--not piously but through comedy that has social and political effect: When Jack's WASP assistant (Nick Swardson) boasts that he's almost Jewish because "I'm an atheist," Jack looks nonplussed. Yet, Sandler isn't. His comic introspection has a moral core.

Maybe these three takes on the film aren't all sincere. One is, though! Can you figure out which writer The Atlantic's Chris Orr was referring to when he tweeted today that "Shark jumps critic..."?

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Spencer Kornhaber is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers pop culture and music. He was previously an editor at Patch.com and a staff writer at OC Weekly. He has written for Spin, The AV Club, and RollingStone.com.

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