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"Jack and Jill" confirms it: Sandler is the new Tyler Perry

LOS ANGELES ( - Grotesquely caricatured, over-the-top drag? Check. Schmaltzy, comedy-killing homilies about the importance of family? Check. Loud, stupid scatological humor that makes the latest “Harold & Kumar” movie look like Moliere? Check. Patronizing digs at atheists? Check.

U.S. actor Adam Sandler poses next to a cardboard cutout of his character during the film premiere of "Jack and Jill" in Cancun, July 10, 2011. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Garcia

“Jack and Jill” makes it official: Adam Sandler is Tyler Perry.

And while this new comedy featuring Sandler as male and female fraternal twins offers the occasional silly chuckle, just like Perry’s Madea movies, it’s another train wreck from the fine folks at Happy Madison, Sandler’s production company.

What makes “Jack and Jill” different from the star’s usual catastrophes is that there are enough successful elements to make one think that this film might actually have worked had it not been left in the legendarily clumsy hands of Dennis Dugan, Sandler’s go-to director. With someone at the helm who possesses a modicum of taste and comedic timing, this dorky farce could have made it off the launching pad.

If there’s one reason to see “Jack and Jill,” it’s for Al Pacino’s over-the-top performance as Al Pacino, a neurotic actor who barks gibberish orders at foreign-language-speaking staff, freaks out when cell phones ring during his performances, and finds himself helplessly smitten with Jill Sadelstein (Sandler), a dorky spinster from the Bronx who’s in L.A. spending the holidays with her short-fused brother Jack (Sandler), a director of TV commercials.

Jack keeps trying to rid himself of Jill, who is loud, obnoxious, and mostly clueless about the world around her, but her Thanksgiving visit extends into Hanukkah and eventually New Year’s, first because of her refusal to leave and later because Jack needs Jill so that he can land Pacino to do a spot for an new Dunkin Donuts coffee drink called a “Dunkaccino.”

Watching Sandler get all goosey in a dress reminded me that he’s the new millennial Jerry Lewis, a somewhat dashing Jewish leading man (and Sandler brings his Jewishness front and center, in this film particularly) who feels most comfortable playing child-men or doing the least subtle drag imaginable. And the scenes in which Jill resists Pacino’s advances, while understanding none of his cultural references, will make you wish that Sandler had abandoned Jack and just played Jill throughout.

But no, Jack has to be an abrasive jerk to his sister so that, in the final act, he can learn his lesson and embrace his twin and blah blah blah fart joke.

While the scenes of Pacino and Johnny Depp playing themselves are pretty hilarious, the movie pours on the L.A. locations as though the audience were an out-of-town client whom Jack is trying to impress. “Look!” Dugan and Sandler seem to be yelling, “We can shoot our stupid movie at a Lakers game! And at Morton’s! And on the set of ‘The Price Is Right’!”

We’ve grown to take this sort of movie magic for granted, but the twinning of Sandler is seamless throughout; you’ll quickly forget the trickery and over-the-shoulder shots involved in turning one actor into two characters.

Less impressive, however, is the use of the supporting cast. Thankfully, we get a minimum of Sandler’s posse of irritants (Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, David Spade, et al.), but why cast Katie Holmes as Jack’s converted-shiksa wife and then give her literally not one thing to do?

At no time during “Jack and Jill” did I find myself praying for the sweet release of death, which automatically makes it better than “Just Go With It,” but it’s still a juvenile mess. Still, I laughed enough to where I’d recommend catching this one on cable, which is a recommendation I’m more likely to give to Tyler Perry’s movies than to Adam Sandler’s.