Movie review, 'Just Married'

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There have been so many comedies about honeymoons, business trips, family vacations and holiday gatherings gone awry, they have almost become a separate genre. Hopefully, this means that the artistic bar gets raised with each new entry, as filmmakers look to build on successful concepts and ideas. But with "Just Married," the bar not only drops, it slams down at the feet of the filmmakers.

Directed by Shawn Levy ("Big Fat Liar") and written by Sam Harper ("Rookie of the Year"), "Just Married" stars Brittany Murphy ("8 Mile") as Sarah McNerney, the free-thinking youngest daughter of a wealthy Los Angeles family who falls head-over-high heels in love with Tom Leezak (Ashton Kutcher of "That 70's Show"), a sports-obsessed, late-night traffic reporter who still lives like a college student, complete with drunken roommate and beater car.

For some reason that the flimsy plot line never explains, these kids decide to tie the knot, much to the chagrin of Sarah's family, especially the stern daddy (David Rasche), who doesn't want to lose his little princess, and the conniving sister (Monet Mazur).

But Sarah and Tom go ahead and marry, and almost immediately, things start to go sour. The hijinks find the newlyweds honeymooning in Italy, which provides plenty of opportunity for cross-cultural jokes. And let's not forget the obligatory subplots, like the jealous ex-boyfriend trying to break them up, the randy foreign woman who tries to seduce Tom and, of course, the Asian butler back in L.A., used for a cheap laugh or two.

I laughed exactly once during the whole film, when a nasty old lady in a Mercedes shoots the couple the bird after ramming their tiny car off a cliff.

A genre film like this needs one of two elements to succeed-a script so fresh and clever, you find yourself identifying with the situation (in a classic like "The In-Laws"), or a breakneck pace that keeps the jokes piling atop each other (like "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World").

"Just Married" has neither. Instead, it is desperately relying on a pair of photogenic young actors and some very expensive locations.

Kutcher shows flashes of charisma, and given a more substantial vehicle, his Midwestern good looks and broad comic sensibility might serve him better. As for Murphy, this is a step backward in what has been a steadily growing career that began with her effective supporting bit in "Girl, Interrupted." Perhaps she wants to expand into physical comedy, but this wasn't the best place to start.

"Just Married" is what industry people refer to as "January Junk," cinematic flotsam that gets tossed ashore once they have cleared the shelves of Oscar contenders.

1 star (out of 4) "Just Married"
Directed by Shawn Levy, produced by Robert Simonds, written by Sam Harper, photographed by Jonathan Brown, production designed by Nina Ruscio, edited by Don Zimmerman and Scott Hill, music by Christophe Beck. Opens Friday. Running time: 1:32. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual situations).
Tom Leezak.....Ashton Kutcher
Sarah McNerney.....Brittany Murphy
Peter Prentiss.....Christian Kane
Lauren McNerney.....Monet Mazur
Kyle.....David Moscow
Wendy.....Valeria

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