Mark Twain's innocents abroad weren't as clueless as the sparring Yank newlyweds at the center of "Just Married." Although the pic's makers tease the young spouses on their oh-so-American style as they travel through Europe on a disastrous honeymoon, the filmmakers themselves betray a lack of knowledge about the Old World.

Mark Twain’s innocents abroad weren’t as clueless as the sparring Yank newlyweds at the center of the inchoate “Just Married.” Although the pic’s makers continuously tease the young spouses on their oh-so-American style as they travel through Europe on a disastrous honeymoon, the filmmakers themselves betray a lack of knowledge about the Old World, while unfailingly repeating physical hijinks one time too many. This latest project from producer Robert Simonds, however, is at least a rung above his other recent output, “Corky Romano,” “Joe Dirt,” “See Spot Run” and “Head Over Heels.” Early January escapade will quickly get a visa to video destinations.

Reportedly inspired by scripter Sam Harper’s own honeymoon, story begins as Tom (Ashton Kutcher) and Sarah (Brittany Murphy) deplane at LAX, each pummeling the other in an ongoing, mutual fit of rage. He drops her off at her rich family’s palatial mansion in his aging auto, making sure he destroys as much landscaping as possible on his way out.

After showing youths acting ugly and vicious, the movie struggles through the next reels to undo this impression. It does this, awkwardly, by showing Tom, a radio traffic reporter and sports- talk host wannabe, wondering what went wrong as he flashes back to Sarah and him meeting cute on the beach, 10 months earlier.

She’s the quintessential Beverly Hills princess (art major at Wellesley), while he’s a working-class poster boy (two-year degree from Burbank Community College). After a whirlwind courtship and a nine-month live-in tryout, they head to the altar.

“Just Married” delivers an occasional genuine laugh, as when Tom accidentally ensures that Sarah’s toy boxer goes to dog heaven — a secret he keeps from Sarah but not from buddy Kyle (David Moscow), who’s as skeptical of the marriage as is Sarah’s icy sister Dickie (Taran Killam). (The doggie mishap is amusing on first viewing, and much, much less so when it’s shown again later.)

The seeds of future trouble are planted by Sarah’s insistence on truth-telling in marriage, but her concealing her true relationship with moneybags beau Peter (Christian Kane) continues to haunt the pair in various ways.

Pic skips to the honeymoon suite, where the pair finds numerous ways not to have sex, but several ways to get bloody noses. As the honeymooners cross the Pond to Europe, the mishaps — ranging from near-crashes in a Euro-scale compact car to smashing down walls in a Venetian pensione — pile up too quickly, pushing Kutcher and Murphy to play them more and more broadly under helmer Shawn Levy’s direction. The mishaps, along with the running gag of Tom and Sarah not having sex, soon run out of gas. In addition, the European setting seems less than realistic. At one point, for example, the sound of televised baseball in an Yank-style sports bar tucked in a Venetian side street can be heard many blocks away deep inside the vast Piazza San Marco.

Christophe Beck’s music also seems geographically challenged, with Gallic-style accordion ditties and Argentine tango riffs underscoring action in Italy.

True to the standard comedy template, the marrieds break up but then get together in a sentimental finale that wastes the real gifts of David Rasche as Sarah’s snooty pere and Raymond J. Barry as Tom’s stiff-upper-lip dad. Although never as funny as in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”, Kutcher comes as close as anyone to enjoying himself, while Murphy tries much too hard to be the winning comedienne.

Alp and Lido locations form the visual highlights of an otherwise plain filmmaking palette, and production designer Nina Ruscio enjoyably plays around with designing a range of lavish rooms, including several upscale Continental hotel suites.

Just Married

Production

A Twentieth Century Fox release and presentation in association with Mediastream 1. Prods. of a Robert Simonds production. Produced by Robert Simonds. Executive producers, Tracey Trench, Josie Rosen, Lauren Shuler Donner. Co-producer, Ira Shuman. Directed by Shawn Levy. Screenplay, Sam Harper.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color and prints), Jonathan Brown; editor, Don Zimmerman, Scott Hill; music, Christophe Beck; production designer, Nina Ruscio; art director, Troy Sizemore; set designer, Joshua Lusby; set decorator, K.C. Fox; costume designer, Debra McGuire; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Mark Weingarten; supervising sound editor, Donald Sylvester; special effects coordinator, Robert Willard; stunt coordinator, Ernie Orsatti; assistant director, Marty Eli Schwartz; second unit camera, Patrick Turley, Malik Sayeed, Arthur Jaffa; casting, Sheila Jaffe, Georgianne Walken. Reviewed at Twentieth Century Fox Studios screening room, L.A., Dec. 31, 2002. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Tom - Ashton Kutcher Sarah - Brittany Murphy Peter Prentiss - Christian Kane Kyle - David Moscow Lauren - Monet Mazur Mr. McNerney - David Rasche Mrs. McNerney - Veronica Cartwright Willie McNerney - Thad Luckinbill Paul McNerney - David Agranov Dickie McNerney - Taran Killam Mr. Leezak - Raymond J. Barry Yuan - Toshi Toda Wendy - Valeria
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