Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just Go With It

Just Go With It

Peter Howell/Toronto, 10, 011

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman and Brooklyn Decker.

Directed by Dennis Dugan.

Remember the last really funny Adam Sandler comedy?

I’m struggling to recall it — The Wedding Singer, anyone? –— and it’s abundantly clear that Sandler is caught in his own memory gap. As he wrestles with an uncomfortable middle age, he’s either forgotten or ceased to care about how to make people laugh.

Take Just Go With It (please!), the latest noxious emission from his Happy Madison gas factory. It’s a movie so lazily constructed, it risks offending the indolent.

It’s very loosely based on Cactus Flower, the 1969 film that won Goldie Hawn the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The original, teaming Hawn with Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman, was an example of how good acting and directing can enliven dumb farce.

The remake, yoking Sandler with Jennifer Aniston and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, with an implausibly game Nicole Kidman in tow, demonstrates the exact opposite.

Just Go With It has abundant flaws, not least of them being the direction by Dennis Dugan, the obedient Sandler serf who also helmed last summer’s equally woeful Grown Ups.

But the excruciating and toilet-obsessed writing by Allan Loeb (The Dilemma, The Switch) and Timothy Dowling (Role Models) is the most glaring reason why Just Go With It seems more like a death-march command than an enticement to frivolity.

The screenplay can’t even stay true to its own internal idiocy. Sandler’s Danny Maccabee is an L.A. plastic surgeon, who, wounded by past infidelity (seen in a 1988 prologue), now wears a fake wedding ring to deter potential brides.

He finds that women are drawn like catnip to his ring, along with his bogus tales of marital distress, and he gets more sack action than he’d ever imagined. Danny uses deception to get over deception, and then some.

The magic circle becomes a problem for Danny after one night with his latest score, a dim-bulb hottie named Palmer (Decker, who was not hired for her acting ability). She demands to meet the soon-to-be ex-wife, the latest permutation of Danny’s pack o’ lies.

Flailing for a dodge, Danny reaches out to his assistant Katherine (Aniston), whom we’re supposed to believe is mousy because she wears glasses and a lab coat. He bribes her into pretending she’s the exiting Mrs. Maccabee.

An abundance of contrivances ensue, involving Katherine’s obnoxious children Maggie and Michael (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) and Danny’s moronic cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson).

As this nearly two-hour movie wheezes towards the halfway mark, en route to its obvious conclusion, everyone decamps to Hawaii, where plausibility is further abused and any pretense of humor is abandoned.

Eddie adopts a German accent and dons Coke-bottle glasses, pretending to be Katherine’s German boyfriend. It’s still early in 2011, but he’s a strong candidate for the year’s most irksome and unnecessary rom-com sidekick.

Meanwhile, Kidman enters the picture as the chirpy Devlin, former college rival to Katherine, whose personality was so irritating, Katherine taught her children to use “Devlin” as synonym for poo. Devlin is married to the effete snob Ian, inexplicably played by rocker Dave Matthews.

All of this is calculated to maintain the ruse to the clueless Palmer that Dr. Danny is the eligible bachelor of her dreams, despite a 20-year age gap, his propensity for lying (he even faked his way through med school), his cheapness and his general irritability.

Wading through this puerile mess is exhausting for the viewer, but it seems to have tuckered Sandler out even before he punched his time card for yet another factory gig. It’s painfully clear he knows this is weak stuff, yet he can’t seem to rouse himself to do anything about it.

He sabotages the potentially good chemistry with Aniston by relentlessly mugging at every turn. Is Sandler now choosing films strictly on the basis of how pleasant the weather and locales are?

Kidman and Aniston seem slightly more engaged, but their efforts are undone by Dugan’s artless direction. A set piece where both women compete as hula dancers might have been funny in better circumstances, but it falls as flat as the rest of the picture.

If there’s any justice, Just Go With It will be greeted to the sound of no hands clapping in empty auditoriums. Do pass Go; do not destroy any more brain cells.


Dear Sir

I read your review of this movie and think you missed its point and misunderstood it.

It was more self knowing than you give it credit for. If you watch it for what it is--broad, funny farce that knows how silly it and slight it is, while still telling a linear romantic comedy story--you'd enjoy it much more. I was not at all disappointed by it, laughed out loud, enjoyed how great in different ways Decker and Aniston looked, thought Sandler was more restrained and less hammy than you give him credit for, and was touched mildly by the altogether predictable ending.

The plot gaps, the overbearing children, the predictability, the sentimentality, the over drawn characters and silliness, the puerility were so self consciously so, how to be mad at them? I.E. the movie was so “bad,” was so much what it was, that it worked.

There was not a nano second of pretention in this movie, of it being anything than what it was, as it reveled unapologetically in what it was. What a relief from high minded messes that fall so short of what they try so portentously to do.

I didn't begrudge a penny of my ten bucks to see it or a minute of my time during it and came out happy to have been pleasantly entertained and diverted.

And here’s some subtlety in it even: we get tired of how great Decker looks as we more and more of so much of her throughout the movie; contrarily by showing more of herself in a gradual build up we are knocked out by her great Aniston looks when she finally gets down to a bikini. And Decker is a truly sweet girl in all the broadness of her character, just slightly ditzy with her ‘N Sync “jam.” And there is real on screen chemistry between Sandler and Aniston, which slowly and expertly grows amidst all the purposefully absurd farce.

I give it a strong 2.85 out of 5.

Stop being so high minded. It might make you more open minded.


Itzik Basman


Hello Itzik:

Thanks for your note.You make good points, but I disagree with yourfundamental assertion that Sandler et al were up to anything really smart here. I think it was just a lazy cash grab, but I won't belabor the point.

The important thing is that you enjoyed yourself, and that's all that really matters.

btw, you should check out the original film, Cactus Flower. It's farce, too, but a far better movie, in my opinion.


Peter Howell

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