Eric D. Snider

Just Married

I'm not a proponent of the philosophy that movies with good messages are therefore good movies. Too many films with upstanding morals are very dull, and plenty of gray-area films are, let's face it, highly entertaining.

But "Just Married," while only a passable movie, is elevated a bit by its pleasantly old-fashioned ideals. It promotes monogamy, marriage, staying committed and the importance of honesty in a relationship. Its protagonists might have been too young to get married, they realize -- but they never suspect marriage in general is a bad idea. The very notion that people might have to, you know, PREPARE for marriage -- that it's that important a step -- is already more refreshingly nonprogressive than most films are willing to be.

This slapsticky, cheerful film chronicles the disastrous honeymoon of semi-employed Tom (Ashton Kutcher) and his ultra-rich new bride Sarah (Brittany Murphy). There is trouble on the plane to Europe, and then at the castle where they're staying, and subsequently with their comically small rental car and pretty much everything else they come in contact with. Through most of it, though they squabble immaturely, they remain in love. Only when confronted with each other's dishonesty about their past do things begin to break down.

There is a childish giddiness about most of the film, and in particular with Tom and Sarah's relationship. The sexuality is handled discreetly; you get the idea that much of the time, they're probably laughing too much to actually do anything, seeming more like kids at a slumber party than newlyweds. When Tom finds out Sarah's mom's nickname, which is a sexual double-entendre, he covers his mouth and giggles; sex embarrasses him. Kudos to any film that can focus on a young couple's honeymoon and not dwell on consummation jokes. (They are here, but they are few.)

The director is Shawn Levy, who directed the similarly lame-but-harmless "Big Fat Liar" (2002). The writer is Sam Harper, whose only other credit is "Rookie of the Year" (1993) -- yet another film that was more likable than it should have been.

Ashton Kutcher will forever be vilified for "Dude, Where's My Car?" (2000), but his comedic skills -- honed on "That ‘70s Show" -- are considerable. His delivery is good, and his chemistry with the almost-equally talented Brittany Murphy is genuine. They help the film overcome its weaknesses -- such as running out of steam long before it ends -- and it's altogether a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Grade: B-

Rated PG-13, some profanity, some mild sexuality, some crude humor

1 hr., 34 min.

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