Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 94 minutes
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“Just Married” is like a head on collision between some nice performances and a really stupid plot. In the end, the plot overwhelms the good actors, but not before we’ve had a few, a very few, inspired moments. It’s not that “Just Married” is so incredibly awful; it’s just that you know, right from the beginning, that it’s not very good. Lightning isn’t going to strike.
“Just Married” tells its comic love story in flashbacks as we meet Tom (Ashton Kutcher) and Sarah (Brittany Murphy) who have just returned to Los Angeles, furious with each other after a disastrous honeymoon. We then cut back to the beginning of their lovesick courtship, leading up to a slapstick wedding between Sarah, the rich girl from the proper family, and Tom, the grease monkey, whose only dream in life is to drink beer, watch games on TV and live a miserable existence as a radio traffic reporter.
Their European honeymoon features the usual pratfalls: the car breaks down, the young couple get involved in a series of cultural misunderstandings and, deep down, they discover that they don’t have much in common. Tom wants to watch sports and Sarah wants to see historic landmarks. A fear creeps into them that maybe her parents were right about them not getting married after all. And, of course, we’re constantly waiting to see how the plot arrives to the end, or the beginning, you know, when they get back to Los Angeles and they’re not even speaking to each other.
The biggest problem I had with “Just Married” is that it’s not the movie I wanted it to be. I think a movie about two newlyweds from different classes, facing all kinds of pressures and obstacles, could be really fascinating, but there’s not even a hint of that in Sam Harper’s screenplay except for some admittedly funny scenes where Tom and Sarah discuss their sexual problems. And, to be fair, there are a few good scenes where Tom and Sarah make some funny discoveries about each other, the kinds of discoveries that, had they known them earlier, they might not have gotten married.
Maybe the problem’s with me because I was picturing Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in “The Long, Long Trailer,” a wonderful comedy about a couple whose marriage seems doomed right from the beginning. It’s amazing how people are getting married at such an early age today and I wonder what a really funny or serious film about the subject would be like. After that, I didn’t much care about the idiots that Tom and Sarah meet in Europe, or why the car won’t start, or the horrors of continental travel. I know that “She’s Having a Baby” wasn’t a masterpiece, but at least it tried to be honest. What’s Tom and Sarah’s sex life like?
The only saving grace in “Just Married” are Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy…mostly Brittany…maybe ninety percent her. Kutcher has a real zeal for physical comedy and a certain down to earth charm that’s appealing, but Brittany Murphy is a real star. Watch her in the reaction shots. When she’s not talking, she’s listening. She’s really quite fetching as she showed in the wonderful Riding in Cars with Boy, another film about young love gone awry that’s indescribably better than “Just Married.” Actually, the scene in Riding in Cars where Murphy toasts Drew Barrymore’s character was one of the best acted scenes I’ve seen in a long while, and you get the feeling that “Just Married” is just a speed bump onto bigger and better things; something that will be forgotten six months from now when she does something important. Watching her in “Just Married,” you wish that she had better dialogue to say and a better film to say it in.
Posted on January 11, 2003 in Reviews by David Grove
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