Two friends are having a predicament about a seemingly impossible task. As things get heated and stressed one reaches over to a well-lit table in the middle of the frame and picks up a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. He takes a large gulp, the bottle gleaming prominently in the middle of the screen. Suddenly he feels less stressed and decides he will be able to deal with the difficult task ahead. Is this an advert for Pepto-Bismol? No, this is the opening sequence of Adam Sandler’s 2011 “hit” Jack and Jill.
What makes Jack and Jill so difficult to write about isn’t how horrendously unfunny both the narrative and the characters are, but instead the structure of the film. The entire narrative structure revolves around trying to hire Al Pacino to partake in a Dunkin’ Donuts advert, and the film itself is littered throughout with so much product sponsorship that the term ‘product bombardment’ feels like a more accurate description. Jack and Jill is literally a ninety minute advert for a range of products.
The best way to highlight the extent of this problem is to compare the film to actual adverts of the products being represented. For example, in one sequence of the film, Jack (played by Adam Sandler) and his “whacky” twin sister Jill (played by Adam Sandler) decide to go on a Royal Caribbean International Cruise. The sequence begins with a series of sweeping establishing shots of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The landscape is filled with vast blue seas and exotic beaches. The boat takes up the majority of the frame, its enormous size and scale gives the boat a grandiose feel. The audience are then welcomed onto the boat by a well-dressed employee. Looking directly at the camera, in what feels like a breaking of the fourth wall, with a gleaming smile on his face we are told ‘Welcome to Royal Caribbean International’. In the background the upbeat ‘Vacation’ by the Go-Go’s plays as the singer exclaims that vacation is where she wants to be. The camera then cuts to a montage of fun activities that you can do on a Royal Caribbean Cruise and we are shown various shots of artificial surfing, rock climbing and a children’s carousel. In every shot the boat is packed with people, waving and smiling at the camera anchoring how enjoyable the experience they are partaking in is. Finally we cut to an elated Jill who exclaims ‘this boat has everything’, and with all these elements coming together it really feels like it does. Not only could this sequence standalone as a commercial for Royal Caribbean, but you could replace the footage with shots from an actual Royal Caribbean advert and it wouldn’t change the desired impact of the scene. The Royal Caribbean advert ‘Harmony of the Seas – Come Seek’ features almost identical shots to those in Jack and Jill. Sweeping opening establishing shots showing the scale of the boat, and the idyllic locations it goes to. Punchy bubbly music plays throughout, and we are shown a montage of fun activities on board, including things like artificial surfing. It seems like the boat has everything, and I am sure that’s what the marketing team who came up with the advert wanted us as consumers to think. But this is the exact same feeling you get whilst watching Jack and Jill, you feel like a consumer instead of an audience member. And the film continues to make you feel like a consumer, whether it’s making you want to root for Jack to get Al Pacino in his Dunkin’ Donuts ad, the constant bombardment of Sony products, or the ridiculous placement of Coca-Cola labels forming an entire line across the frame during a sequence in a cinema. In the final scene of the film the audience is literally shown a minute long Dunkin’ Donuts advert with Al Pacino in it, where you can see the pain in the legendary actor’s eyes as he dances around with oversized donuts.
It is actively difficult to engage in a film where you do not feel like an audience member, and instead a consumer. The notion that a film can be made where the characters, the plot and even the structure of scenes and editing all revolve around advertising seems almost too ridiculous. It becomes far too meta when I have to watch someone try to market a product in a movie that is simultaneously being marketed at me. The whole film led to one of the most unique viewing experiences I have ever had, but not necessarily one I would like to experience again.
‘Half in the Bag Episode 21: Jack and Jill (2 of 2)., RedLetterMedia., YouTube., Web. 18 Aug 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc85QCF5414
‘Harmony of the Seas “Come Seek” TV Commercial., Royal Caribbean Blog., YouTube., Web. 18 Aug 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAQYdL8CwU
‘Jack and Jill’., IMDB., Web. 18 Aug 2016, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0810913/
‘Jack and Jill’., Rotten Tomatoes., Web. 18 Aug 2016, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jack_and_jill_2011/
‘32nd Golden Raspberry Awards’., Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Aug 2016 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32nd_Golden_Raspberry_Awards
Neil McLeod, 2016