`Married' is so cute it's not even funny

One-note characters don't deliver laughs

January 10, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Tom and Sarah meet cute. They act cute. Gosh darn it, they flat-out are cute.

Which is the extent of positive things to be said about Just Married, a mercilessly unappealing romantic comedy about two young people who fall in love, get married, go on the honeymoon from hell and return, each convinced that the other is the root of all evil in the world.

Wonderful movies have been made from far flimsier premises. But most of them featured screenwriters who knew how to build a joke, directors who knew how to pace a sequence, characters who managed to be at least occasionally appealing and actors who could play more than one note. Just Married displays little of that, but plenty of desperation - especially on the part of leads Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy, desperately trying to ingratiate themselves to an audience with little other reason to watch this thing.

Working-class Tom Leezak (Kutcher) meets blue-blood Sarah (Murphy) on the beach one day, when an errant football toss by him lands squarely in the middle of her face (cute, huh?). Within seconds, cupid's arrow has struck, and the two end up in bed together; by the next scene, they're planning their wedding.

Oh, things seem so happy for the cute, young couple, but of course there's a complication: Sarah's family hates him. Not that their low opinion of him has much to do with the rest of the movie, which has little to do with social class and everything to do with no class, but the filmmakers seem to think it's important, so I thought I'd mention it.

Anyway, their honeymoon starts off rocky, when their attempt to join the "mile-high club" while jetting overseas leads to much embarrassment (but little hilarity - a mistake the script makes repeatedly), and plummets downhill from there. Things continually go wrong, tempers continually flare and regrettable things are continually being said. By the time they head back home, they hate each other.

Wanna guess what happens then? Didn't think so.

Just Married suffers from the worst problem a comedy can have; it simply isn't funny. Tom spends the entire movie acting like the ugly American, trashing his European hosts for not speaking English and refusing to apologize when his efforts to plug an American appliance into a European socket starts a fire. It's impossible to feel sorry for this guy; I, for one, think he deserves all the abuse he gets.

Worse, Kutcher (TV's That '70s Show) simply isn't a good-enough actor to make us overlook his character's shortcomings (he should sue screenwriter Sam Harper for non-support, so determinedly lunkheaded is Tom). The only reactions he seems to know are open-mouthed astonishment and open-mouthed befuddlement. Murphy does better as Sarah, if only because her character doesn't always have to act like an idiot. Her performance is the only saving grace in a movie that really doesn't deserve one.

Just Married

Starring Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy

Directed by Shawn Levy

Released by 20th Century Fox

Rated PG-13 (sexual content, crude humor, brief drug reference)

Time 94 minutes

Sun Score: *

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