I feared that I wouldn’t enjoy the first romantic comedy of 2003. I had little expectations for “Just Married.” I expected another “The Hot Chick,” a poor excuse for two hours of anything but funny. Or more commonly, a comedy that isn’t original or is so ridiculous that it’s horrible like “Dude Where’s My Car.” Much to my surprise, “Just Married” has its moments.
It’s not hilarious, as much of the laughter spurs from accidental injury, anger-induced injury, or self-inflicted injury. The scenes that don’t involve flying projectiles or falling objects are far-fetched are predictable, such as the wall breaking that lands the main characters in the bed of the people in the next room. On the up-side, the bathroom humor is kept to a minimum, and some of the mirth is actually worth laughing at; just wait until you see what the rental car looks like. But even the good scenes that carry the weight of “Just Married” have a hard time keeping up with the hackneyed story; you can fit one cliché in every seat in the theater and you’ll still have leftovers, but nonetheless “Just Married” is sometimes funny.
Tom (Ashton Kutcher) is a third-rate substitute disc jockey who does the traffic reports at 2AM for a local radio station. Sarah (Brittany Murphy) is the youngest daughter to a wealthy owner of several businesses and professional sports teams. The two are completely polar, but that doesn’t stop them from falling in love. Sarah’s family doesn’t think highly of her new fiancé, especially her father. He wanted her to marry his business partner, the young but conniving Peter Prentis (Christian Kane). With Peter, Sarah would have it all, but she is in love with Tom, even if he lives in a tiny apartment, drives a beat-up car, and has no promising future. Sarah even tells him, “If I wanted to know where I’d be in 40 years, I’d be with Peter....but I love you and I don’t want to know.”
Fortunately (I warned you about the clichés), decisions like these in romantic comedies aren’t that difficult to make. Peter may be rich, but he is evil and arrogant, just like all of Hollywood’s richest men. It makes us wonder how the leading women in these movies could have ever dated the bad-guys, because we know they have done so at some point in their lives before meeting Mr. Right.
But back to our couple. Tom and Sarah finally wed and leave for their honeymoon in Europe. They’re staying at one of France’s most luxurious hotels, and are ready for their fun-packed week of love, romance and sightseeing. This is where the relationship falls apart. Nothing goes right and everything goes wrong, starting with a certain electrical device (use your imagination) not being compliant with the European outlets. The power is shorted, and a chain of events lead to Tom and Sarah looking for a new hotel to stay at.
The actual comedy is mild at best, never at the point of being clever. While on the airplane to Europe, Tom and Sarah decide to make love in the lavatory. You already know that as soon as they start shuffling around in that small bathroom, someone’s foot is getting stuck in the toilet.
As the honeymoon continues, we see the marriage go from a living paradise to a living nightmare, and I didn’t like that. I would have preferred instead, a plot about a struggling couple having to work out their differences. “Just Married” is about them falling apart. In the very beginning of the movie, we see Tom and Sarah leaving the airport in California. They are mad, and do everything possible to humiliate each other on the way out. Tom spills coffee on Sarah’s shirt, she in return spits her gum out in his hair. If you haven’t guessed by now, they’ve split up after canceling the rest of their honeymoon. What could have possibly gone wrong? Now that we know their relationship is over, we then start from the wedding and move forward, so we know that it’s only going to get worse. They begin by taking every little incident with a grain of salt, but quickly become fed up and more agitated over all of the mishaps. This eventually leads back to them leaving the airport that we saw from the beginning, and finally we find out if there’s a happy ending or not.
“Just Married” does everything it's allowed to do with a PG-13 rating, from sexual content to adult language, and probably would have self-destructed with R rated freedoms like so many other comedies from the past have. Writer Sam Harper had to muscle in some of the humor as it’s easy to tell, but not at the expense of the shockingly grotesque, and I appreciated that effort. Some of the pranks do get redundant, but who minds seeing coffee running down Brittany Murphy’s chest or Ashton Kutcher running around in boxers?
Both Murphy and Kutcher give good performances. Murphy’s last movie was "8 Mile” where she was an unfaithful girlfriend who only looked out for herself. It was refreshing to see her play a bride in distress who seemed to always be laughing, even when she was upset. Kutcher has recovered from his forgettable (literally) role in “Dude Where’s My Car,” and is listed for the sequel. Playing Tom, he is simple and laid back, maybe that’s what Sarah found so attractive about him. He takes things at one step at a time, although when the line has been crossed, his temper can flare. Murphy and Kutcher have a good chemistry together, and it definitely helped make this mediocre movie more enjoyable.
Young audiences will have a good time, but the older crowds won’t be completely satisfied. In the second paragraph I said that this movie is sometimes funny. If you liked “The Hot Chick,” “Sorority Boys” or any of those other low-grade movies, then this is your Oscar pick and favorite comedy of the year. But if you’re looking for that smart comedy, a movie with more laughs than straight face expressions, then “Just Married” just misses.