Dir: Shawn Levy. US. 2002. 94 mins.
Broad comedy, flimsy romance and some decorative European settings are the key ingredients in Just Married, a young-skewing romantic comedy from producer Robert Simonds. Grossing a surprising $34m after 10 days on US release, the $18m project has also become the film to knock Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers off the top spot in the US. But adding significantly to the tally overseas may not be easy: internationally, the film will not benefit as much from the growing pulling power of leads Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy, nor from the post-holiday release slot that positioned it in the US as an easily digestible New Year pick-me-up.
Simonds (best known for Adam Sandler films The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer) employs some upcoming behind-the-scenes talents on this typically unassuming comic outing: Shawn Levy, who made his theatrical debut with mid-level family hit Big Fat Liar, directs, from a script, reportedly based on his own ill-fated honeymoon, by Sam Harper (Rookie Of The Year).
Kutcher's aspiring radio reporter Tom and Murphy's rich girl Sarah are young lovers who shock the latter's snooty parents with their engagement. The romance begins to turn sour, however, when the newlyweds set out on their dream honeymoon to France and Italy. With Sarah being pursued by a whiz-kid admirer (Kane) and Tom struggling to keep up with the bills and the educational sight-seeing, the bickering escalates into all-out war and by the time the couple returns to LA the marriage, it seems, is over.
From its first encounter Tom and Sarah's relationship is plagued by pratfalls and, as the story progresses, the film relies increasingly on aggressive slapstick and familiar comic situations that are milked without much flair or imagination. In a couple of instances, the script even falls back on the most basic scatalogical gags.
Perhaps in deference to the PG-13 rating, however, there is little attempt to find humour in sex. In fact, the story's running joke is that Tom and Sarah never actually get around to consummating their marriage.
The European setting sees some standard comic stereotypes - arrogant, anti-American French, lecherous Italians and, to add balance, ignorant, ugly Americans - as well some attractive location footage of Venice and the Alps. But the romance is lightweight and not credible. Once their first flirtation is over, sports fanatic Tom and art lover Sarah seem distinctly ill-matched and it is only in the story's final section - when the estranged spouses return home and Tom's Dad offers sagely advice on how to make a marriage work - do things turn remotely serious.
Kutcher, who had a big-screen hit last year with Dude, Where's My Car', has an easygoing charm and a talent for physical comedy, coming across here like a young Ben Stiller, with elements of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler. Murphy, who played Eminem's girlfriend in 8 Mile, has a somewhat less likeable character and is not quite as adept at selling the broad comic moments.
Prod cos: Twentieth Century Fox, Mainstream 1 Productions
US dist: Fox
Prod: Robert Simonds
Exec prods: Tracey Trench, Josie Rosen, Lauren Shuler Donner
Scr: Sam Harper
Cinematography: Jonathan Brown
Prod des: Nina Ruscio
Eds: Don Zimmerman, Scott Hill
Music: Christophe Beck
Main cast: Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, David Moscow, Monet Mazur, David Rasche