Friday, February 18, 2011

"Just Go with It" would be easy if it were funnier


Just Go with It (2011) 
116 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C

OK, so going into another Adam Sandler farce, we're probably supposed to just go with the sitcommy contrivance behind the forgettably titled romantic-comedy, "Just Go with It." And his eye-rolling hit-in-the-groin slapstick, giant Jewish noses, and peepee jokes that's become the arrested adolescent's permanent shtick. And that his co-star Jennifer Aniston isn't hot behind glasses and supposedly dull, flat hair, but the actress (old buddies with Sandler) actually shines here and the two surprisingly have enjoyable chemistry. 

In "Just Go with It," Sandler plays Danny, a big-time plastic surgeon whose near-marriage years ago has him burned, forcing him to pretend to be married so he can nail women without the commitment (wouldn't that make them homewrecking sluts then?). Aniston is Katherine, Danny's loyal office assistant/nurse, a divorced mother of two young kids who rolls her eyes at Danny's piggish games to land babes. Then he meets Palmer (swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker), a knockout sixth grade math teacher, whom he thinks is The One, until she finds his ring and thinks he's married. So on the fly, Danny invents a harebrained story that he has an ex-wife-to-be and Palmer insists on meeting her. So take away her glasses and let down her hair, Katherine passes as Danny's hot debutante ex-wife 'Devlin' and her kids are bribed to pass as Danny's kids with fake names. There we have it, a road to love paved with a whole lot of lying, and a trip to Hawaii with everyone, along with Danny's cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson) posing as Katherine's goofy German boyfriend Dolph Lundgren. In other baffling news, Nicole Kidman shows up as Katherine's superficial college sorority “frenemy” whose real name is Devlin, with her husband played by musician Dave Matthews, and you just know the lies will keep piling up from there. 

The premise behind "Just Go with It" has been trotted out before, making it a credited remake of 1969's Walter Matthau-Ingrid Bergman-Goldie Hawn film "Cactus Flower," itself based on a 1965 Broadway show that was adapted from the French play “Fleur de cactus.” The stupidly labored plot is purely “Three's Company” stuff, since it could be solved in a few minutes' time had the characters been smart and opened their mouths, but like the title says, we're intended to just go with it. Too bad director Dennis Dugan, the Sandman's frequent collaborator, flattens the farce with the dopey crap the Happy Madison production company loves churning out. Even if Sandler didn't write the script, not many of the “Sandler-ized” jokes click, scenes are prolonged, and the movie strains itself to nearly two hours. Granted, it is less crude and appalling and marginally more entertaining than other Sandler outings, and the soundtrack has some cool mash-up songs (i.e. General Public's "Tenderness" with Rihanna's "Umbrella"). And where else are you going to see Dave Matthews pick up a coconut with his butt cheeks?

Aniston, the best thing about "Just Go with It," is actually playing a smart grown-up after rom-com junk like 2010's misbegotten "The Bounty Hunter." She looks fab and has sharp comic timing, making her a nice, likable match for Sandler's juvenilia. Also, rather than hating one another from the start (like in most formulaic rom-coms), Danny and Katherine are friendly from the beginning to the end where they fall in love. Showing he can be charming, Sandler is Sandler, but isn't playing much of a catch here (i.e. he plans to marry Palmer on a lie, then tell her his pretend kids died in an accident). 

Decker makes her feature debut, but so little is asked of her, besides getting in a few Bo Derek/Christie Brinkley bikini strides. She has such little connection with Sandler that we never buy her as Danny's soul mate. And Palmer says she can tell when Danny's lying but apparently believes all of his moronic lies. Without ever learning that she was duped, her character is dispatched without any explanation. Her husband, tennis star Andy Roddick, gives a cameo however. Subbing for Rob Schneider, Swardson's “hilariously zany” sidekick is only funny in extra small spurts, least of all when he's pretending to be German, although gets one ridiculous scene to revive a sheep. Even the child actors (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) are cloying, especially with Madison's cockney accent. Kidman hasn't been this spontaneous in a while, really going for it in a hula contest and coconut smoochie game, and her fake Devlin later shows dimension. 

Aniston and Sandler deserved a wittier script to flaunt off their genuine sparks, but Sandler fans will probably get their money's worth anyhow, even if Aniston is the only bright light to just go with it. As is, "Just Go with It" would've been easy had it been a little bit funnier. 

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