In the idiotic-as-we-wanna-be sleeper hit ”Dude, Where’s My Car?” Ashton Kutcher and his costar, Seann William Scott, made goo-goo eyes at each other as if they were stuck in a casually homoerotic ”Bill & Ted” sequel. The screwball honeymoon farce Just Married is a lot more conventional, but it allows Kutcher, once again, to fashion himself into a cuddle-bug pinup. The heir to teen idols like David Cassidy and Rob Lowe, he’s the sort of hot-yet-harmless young actor who appeals to the girls who read fanzines because he’s handsome in a girlish way himself, his tall frame and shaggy hippie hair set off by androgynous Bambi eyelashes and a ruby-lipped smile of reassuring delicacy.
Just asking: Does Ashton Kutcher really want to look as if he’s wearing enough cosmetics to rival Prince? In ”Just Married,” he’s supposed to be playing an antic, sports-fixated yob who meets Brittany Murphy, as a posh and perfect daddy’s girl, and leaps into marriage before he’s even close to ready for it. The snooty rich in-laws he can handle, but as the newlyweds travel through Europe, veering from one culture-clash disaster to the next, the underlying joke is that it’s Kutcher, far more than Murphy, who’s the spoiled, bratty princess. Whatever goes wrong (and just about everything does), he can’t deal, and this young actor, who carries himself with a blitzed air of proprietary glee, as if he were the class clown on spring break, knows that he’s the movie’s true love object. He plays to the teen female peanut gallery by becoming adorably unglued in one cute predicament after the next.
At the foot of the Alps, Kutcher and Murphy zoom around in a yellow tin can of a French car, a vehicle so compact that it looks as if it had been smashed like an accordion into a granite cliff. The sight gag comes to life because of Kutcher’s stylized irritation at having to squish into that car; he has another good bit in Venice when he does slapstick battle with the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. Murphy, playing straight woman to these antics, proves unexpectedly charming, like a junior Meg Ryan without the self-adoring tics. Up until now, she has made a calling card of her baby-doll lewdness, but if Murphy wants a future in mainstream romantic comedy, she appears to have the chops for it.
In its cellophane-thin way, ”Just Married” is a portrait of a Gen-Y ”starter marriage,” featuring two characters who love each other yet haven’t a clue as to how to negotiate the delicate power dynamics of an adult relationship. As long as they’re playing out that tension via the logistical difficulties of travel abroad (e.g., those pesky European electrical outlets), the movie is lively dumb fun. But it makes a crucial wrong turn when it segues into a comedy of sexual jealousy. Paranoid over Murphy’s preppy ex-flame, who just happens to be staying in Venice, Kutcher picks up a bimbo of his own, who leaves behind a telltale bra, even though the two didn’t actually do anything…you get the idea. ”Just Married” collapses into the most generic sort of teen movie-ville, just at the moment it’s convinced you that its lightly appealing stars are capable of better.