I was expecting the worst heading into the theaters to see Adam Sandler’s latest comedy, Jack and Jill. With its half-baked cross-dressing premise and trailer that seemed like an outtake from the opening of Tropic Thunder, Jack and Jill appeared to be a big-screen assault on all moviegoers’ senses, a film that would even drive a Happy Gilmore-era Sandler to clock his future self right in the kisser. In fact, stepping into my 7:30 p.m. screening, I wasn’t counting out the possibility that Jack and Jill was a giant prank, that the theater lights would go down and a screen would show up laughing at moviegoers, “You actually thought this movie existed?!”

But Jack and Jill actually does exist. And, as I sat watching the 90-minute film, I realized Jack and Jill wasn’t bad. It was terrible. It was a smorgasbord of bad ideas, an editing disaster in which scenes appeared as if from nowhere and everyone involved was frighteningly unembarrassed to be acting alongside a headliner in a horrible frat-boy Halloween costume. Even the rhythm of the entire film was off — a pivotal, climactic Thanksgiving dinner scene, which, in most conventional comedies, would appear in the final quarter of the movie, occurred 15 minutes into the film, making the rest of Jack and Jill feel so unnecessary, confounding, and excruciating, you weren’t sure how long you were even in the theater. (As my colleague Keith Staskiewicz said about our Jack and Jill movie-going experience, “That could have lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to three days.”) To distract you from the lack of laughs, the film featured a cameo every five minutes — how excellent is it that Sandler’s world is one in which Johnny Depp (what bet did he lose?!) boasts the same amount of screen time as Subway Guy Jared Fogle? And lest you think Al Pacino — prominently featured in the trailer — was just a cameo in Jack and Jill as well, let me make clear that the Oscar-winning Scarface actor is a significant, plot-defining character. One that likes to tickle and rap (rap!) about Dunkin Donuts coffee, no less. Oh, also: At one point, a cockatoo chugs a handle of Jack Daniels.

Regardless of all this — and regardless of a scene in which an on old woman with one tooth is knocked out by a pinata stick and revived with red peppers — my theater was completely sold-out. And therein lies the genius of Sandler — though my pack of bad movie-loving, tallboy-swigging friends might have been laughing much harder than all the 13-year-olds in the theater, the former Saturday Night Live star still can pack the theater seats. And, as proved by Jack and Jill, he doesn’t even have to try: The film might not have been a prank, but I’m not convinced it wasn’t a joke. The real, supposedly heart-wrenching climax of the film featured Sandler’s Jack and Sandler’s Jill speaking jibberish to one another for what felt like five minutes. The man doesn’t even have to write actual dialogue anymore to get people to pay $13 for a ticket! I would say that Sandler’s simply lost his touch, or that he’s gone too Hollywood to understand his creative missteps, but moments of Jack and Jill were far too self-aware. Just take the final scene, in which Pacino, watching himself in the aforementioned Dunkin Donuts scene, demanded that Sandler destroy all the footage of the commercial. Now, I’m entirely open to the possibility that that was real footage of Pacino talking about the entire movie, but it also appears to be Sandler’s admission to moviegoers: “Hey, guys, I’m in on this joke.”

At least, I hope he is. That’s the only way to justify a running gag about a little boy who tapes pepper grinders to his head.

PopWatchers, did you see Jack and Jill? Was it as horrible as you expected, or worse? And where was Rob Schneider playing a stapler? On IMDB, he’s listed as “Alan,” but, from what I can tell, only got a shout-out in the film. Did I miss him? Or was he the cockatoo?

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWardEW

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