Making the Grades
We're told Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) is a man who's afraid of risk. That makes the opening few minutes of this movie somewhat implausible as we watch Reuben marry Lisa (Debra Messing), a woman he's known for only a few weeks. Nevertheless, the happy couple set off for a tropical honeymoon.
On the beach they encounter Claude (Hank Azaria), a local entrepreneur who's literally in the flesh. Soliciting customers for his scuba diving business, an activity that stretches Reuben's comfort zone to the max, the naked beach bum (seen from the rear) excites Lisa with the prospect of swimming underwater. The understanding husband encourages his eager wife to participate for the afternoon.
Anticipating their return, Reuben drops back down to the beach a few hours later. Locating the proprietor's boat, he peeks inside to discover the instructor having sex with Lisa. The encounter sends the groom packing for his home in New York City where, by the time he arrives, it seems everyone is aware of his plight, thanks to his thoughtful Jewish mother (Michele Lee).
Reuben's low tolerance of peril comes as a natural consequence of his career. A risk assessor for a large insurance company, he considers every step he takes--including walking on subway grates. But even this typically cautious neurotic isn't immune to rebound syndrome when he bumps into Polly (Jennifer Aniston), a free-spirited childhood friend who enjoys exploring new pastimes, yet is unable to commit to doing anything with her life. She also has a pet ferret, which gets surprisingly little screen time.
Recognizing the difficulties involved in having a relationship with a woman who is no respecter of risk, and still mourning over the loss of Lisa, Reuben is confused with his attraction to her. However, the strong encouragement from his best friend Sandy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) convinces him that he should use this opportunity to put Lisa behind him. The plan works until his two-timing bride suddenly returns.
This predictable love triangle film is one of a growing list of titles featuring performers who play identical roles in movie after movie. Ben Stiller has become comfortable acting his part as a neurotic dumbleton and joins the ranks of Adam Sandler, Albert Brooks, and even Jack Nicholson--all of whom are becoming franchise performers, delivering a product like McDonald's cranks out burgers.
Just as predictable in Stiller's latest films is the reliance on bathroom, scatological, and sexual dialogue to generate comedy. An extended scene with his character on a toilet, a conversation with his boss while the two urinate in the men's room, and rude comments from his flatulent friend are moments cookie-cut from far too many movies in this last decade of the ?Gross Out Genre.?
Combined with the aforementioned nudity and an additional sexual encounter between Reuben and his uncommitted fling (for a low-risk germaphobic he's certainly comfortable with casual sex), there will be many reasons why families may not want to come along with Polly.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Along Came Polly.
In some areas of his life, Reuben is paranoid about avoiding risk, yet his sexual habits could expose him to serious danger. Why do you think the writers of this film chose not to have Reuben as concerned about his sexual behavior with Polly?