Just Married

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy Romance
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, David Rasche, Veronica Cartwright
Rated: PG-13

Oh, dear, it’s the film industry’s annual January White Sale — the cinematic equivalent of the bargain table of remaindered books at Barnes and Noble. The only difference is that the movies being hastily dumped into theaters are rarely a bargain. Just Married is certainly no exception, and it’s only distinction lies in the fact that it’s the first actual release of 2003.

Even with a Martin Lawrence comedy and Kangaroo Jack on the horizon, things can only go uphill from here. While watching this brainless mishmash — feeling like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, minus the actual eye clamps — my primary question was over who was wearing more eye makeup and blush, Asthon Kutcher or Brittany Murphy? I never came to a conclusion on this burning topic, though I did find myself searching the credits to see if possibly Tammy Faye Bakker has done the makeup (she hadn’t).

The story line would be a stale reshuffling of the most standard romantic comedy imaginable — except that screenwriter Sam Harper (Rookie of the Year) didn’t even bother reshuffling. Just Married is every lame romantic comedy you’ve ever seen all over again. Most of it wasn’t funny the first time around (which was probably in a 1910 Edison one-reeler), and it hasn’t improved with age. Take a pair of mismatched lovers — rich girl and poor boy — and subject them to a wedding in the face of family disapproval, then pack them off on the honeymoon from hell (complete with girl’s ex-suitor in pursuit), and see whether true love triumphs in the end. I won’t give away the answer … only because it would be superfluous.

When I went into the movie, I took some solace in the apparently incontestable fact that Just Married couldn’t possibly be as bad as Kutcher’s first starring vehicle, Dude, Where’s My Car?. Within 20 minutes, I wished I was watching Dude, Where’s My Car?.

Real-life item Kutcher and Murphy may light up each other’s world off-screen, but onscreen they have less chemistry than Kutcher and Sean Scott Williams showed in Dude. In all fairness, it may not be entirely their fault. Any movie where the leads “meet cute” by having the heroine get zonked in the bridge of the nose (and left unmarked and bright and chipper) by a wayward football isn’t giving the actors a fighting chance. And yet it only gets worse from there.

The characters are supposed to be likable and sympathetic — and they’re anything but. Kutcher’s character is even shallower than the silly stoner he played in Dude, Where’s My Car?. He’s a wannabe sports broadcaster who has climbed the ladder of success all the way to being an inept relief traffic announcer on an L.A. radio station. In fact, his life is centered on sports scores and seemingly nothing else. No sooner does the newlywed couple’s plane touch down in Europe for their honeymoon than he’s complaining that he can’t function without knowing the up-to-the-minute scores — which he manfully announces are as important to him as his morning bathroom functions. To paraphrase Fred Allen: You could put all the romance in this guy’s heart into the navel of a flea and still have room left over for an artichoke and the screenwriter’s brain.

From this point on, Kutcher becomes the poster boy for why many Europeans are somewhat less than enamoured of Americans. He’s rude, obnoxious, ill tempered and constantly kvetching about how inferior everything is to its American counterpart. Is it any wonder that Murphy’s family was less than thrilled with the nuptials? Not that Murphy is any prize package, but then her character is — perhaps blessedly — less developed. When Kutcher opts to be sitting in an American sports bar instead of seeing the sights of Venice, Murphy remarks, “You know how much I love sports.” I guess that’s supposed to explain why she married this mutton-head, yet it’s also the first we’ve heard of her fondness for athletics.

Previously, the only real interest in her life seems to have been an obnoxious little dog that Kutcher’s character accidentally kills — in “comical” fashion a la There’s Something About Mary, where the screenwriters were at least smart enough not to kill the gag by actually offing the dog.

Just Married is unfunny and predictable, and seems to go on to its predestined end for hours. With all the good movies from the end of 2002 out there, there’s simply no excuse for wasting your time on this drivel.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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