2 Stars out of 4
It’s what you’d expect. A classic (I’d say redundant) Sandler comedy that starts and ends how it always does, wedged in the middle of a dopey plot. This is a hopelessly ambitious film. It covers two people discovering love through a scenario that – I could assume – would never generate such a thing.
The plot: Danny (Sandler), a plastic surgeon, uses his manager Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) and her children to deceive another woman into his heart. Let me explain further. Danny is known to be a slam-bam-thank-you-m’am guy when it comes to his love life. One day he meets the dime-a-dozen Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) who fancies him greatly. She soon assumes Danny is married when she discovers he has a wedding ring (which was actually used to goad the ladies) and is just cheating. This is where Katherine and her family come in. Katherine is now the divorcing go-go wife “Devlin” and the children are the kids who still love their daddy pathologically. This is a sick and silly joke.
Katherine is grounded in enough reality to recognize that Danny’s egomaniacal behaviour is less than ordinary. The poor Palmer, who is supposed to be a relatively educated teacher, does not get the hint that Danny is a duplicitous fiend. Your heart goes out to her because the character is so dumb just to move the story forward. Usually Aniston is so astute at immersing herself into complex characters but she is off in the wild here. Sandler is the same Sandler who thinks kids falling into his groin is damn hilarious. Right.
The pseudo-family takes a trip to Hawaii to fulfill the wishes of the young boy, who only agreed to help Danny if they went there. The trip to Hawaii is basically Forgetting Sarah Marshall redux, which is the perfect irony: Hawaii is a place for vacation and the characters are taking vacations from their true selves. They pretend to be someone they are not. But that leads to no message in sight, which is fine because when Sandler films become manipulative, you develop feelings for the film the way you do nuclear war.
The set ups are mostly lame. Nicole Kidman plays the real Devlin who the family coincidentally runs in to in Hawaii. Her husband is played by singer-guitarist Dave Matthews, but his performance makes me think he should stick to his band. I loved his album Some Devil – ah. Oh but come on. The whole charade between Devlin and her husband is that Devlin is extremely controlling and the husband is on stand-by. The last time we see the couple in there is this terrible set up involving the husbanding flirting with gay sailors. It’s tasteless. Oh, and the film even has a scene with Eddie (Nick Swarson) – a sheep salesman Dolph Lundgren who is Devlin’s lover – providing the heimlich on a sheep. If you laughed at that description you may like this movie.
But who would believe such a scenario?! Just Go With It may be going for screwball but it follows the familiar path of a conventional, asinine romantic comedy that it is hard to fall for absurdities. The film spends too much time trying to pluck laughs from people falling, coconuts sticking to their butt (yes), and slow-mo shots of men ogling gorgeous starring women.
I’ve been cruel on this film. It’s not terrible. The first 45 minutes are the good stuff. There is an electricity in Aniston and Sandler’s chemistry. Their minds are in sync, and both have no problem quibbling with each other’s personalities. They are so incompatible in that they are compatible. Sandler’s cocky attitude is constantly held in check by Aniston’s confident, self-aware style. These are two comedic talents who can play well off each other. The film manages to stabilize a friendly camaraderie between the two, which centres the film around at least half a heart. I just didn’t believe the ending. I know it’s part of the deal, but the Aniston-Sandler package belongs in another movie.
I want to them act together again, in a film that is not so preordained and contrived. The script expects the characters to feel a certain way without developing that reasoning. Even if you laugh, and I did at times, Just Go With It is tough to go with. You get the feeling that there is better material these two could work with. And you’d be right.