Just Married
review by Gregory Avery, 24 January 2003

"Your nostrils are flaring!" Brittany Murphy exclaims at one point to Ashton Kutcher in the romantic farce, Just Married, a sure sign that he is prevaricating to her and one of those things that guys hate to be caught out on if for some reason they have to avoid telling the truth to the women in their lives.

Kutcher, who has the rubbery face of a baby's squeeze toy, and Murphy play Tom and Sarah, a young couple who marry, go off on a European honeymoon, and become so furious with each other over how imperfectly things came off that they're ready to split immediately after they touch ground again in the U.S. Among other things, they ignominiously blow out the electrical system in their quaint French hotel, plow their compact rental car into a snowdrift, and find themselves dogged around Venice by an ex-boyfriend of Sarah's, here more "obsessed" rather than being full-blown "psycho" like the ex-boyfriend in A Guy Thing (the ex in Just Married, played by Christian Kane, pretty much just takes Sarah out for a drink, after which she lobs a marble ashtray that ends up hitting Tom). Worse, Tom and Sarah never once get around to making love on their honeymoon. Worse than that, Tom doesn't have daily access to the American sports scores.

The movie, directed by Shawn Levy (who gave us last year's Big Fat Liar, in which Paul Giamatti was dyed blue from head to foot for the fun of it) and written by Sam Harper, and which has incredibly muddy, if not hideous, cinematography (the culprit shall remain nameless here), has all manner of contrivances, derivative material, and stuff that the filmmakers throw in because they seem to think that the audience expects it -- Sarah's mother (Veronica Cartwright), for instance, has the same first name that Ms. Galore has in Goldfinger, and, of course, one of her first on-screen lines in the movie is to tell Tom that he can address her on a first-name basis. Sarah's family is made up of rich folk who stand around, silent and appalled, when Tom visits them for the first time (it seems he's a bit too proletarian for them: he works at a local radio station); we don't see any of his family, save for a single scene at the end where the fine actor Raymond J. Barry plays his father and wisely advises him that a little bit of adversity is to be expected in marital life.

What's interesting is how Kutcher and Murphy generate appealing on-screen chemistry in the film, and how they spark something in each other during their scenes together -- they have an ebullient quality at times, as if they really enjoyed each other's presence, and which lends their scenes a genuine tone. (Kutcher and Murphy are supposed to be an item off-camera, as well.) And what's surprising is that you find yourself wanting to see them get happily back together before the final fade-out. That's the least you'd expect from a picture like this one, and certainly more than you can say about a lot of other bogus screen couples with whom we've had to suffer through a lot of other, more swankier and ostensibly polished motion picture romances of late.

Directed by:
Shawn Levy

Starring:
Brittany Murphy
Ashton Kutcher
Christian Kane
David Rasche
Veronica Cartwright
Raymond J. Barry

Written by:
Sam Harper

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate
for children under 13.

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