February 12, 2011

Just Go with It

starhalf

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Just Go with It

ROMANCE/COMEDY:

United States, 2011

U.S. Release Date:

2011-02-11

Running Length:

1:54

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Sexual Content, Profanity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson

Director:

Dennis Dugan

Screenplay:

Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling, based on the screenplay Cactus Flower by I.A.L. Diamond

Cinematography:

Theo van de Sande

Music:

Rupert Gregson-Williams

U.S. Distributor:

Columbia Pictures

Subtitles:

none


The experience of sitting through Just Go with It, Adam Sandler's umpteenth comedy directed by good buddy Dennis Dugan, is akin to watching a bad sit-com that never ends. With some TV shows, commercial breaks provide welcome relief from the monotony of enduring the main attraction, but there is no such respite for viewers of Just Go with It unless it involves faking bladder problems and hiding out in the rest room. In some instances, that might be the preferable choice.

I was one of the few defenders of the previous Sandler/Dugan collaboration, Grown Ups, because it felt almost like an exercise in comedic improv performed by a group of old friends in the service of a minimalist plot. I cannot, however, excuse the misfire that Just Go with It represents. This remake of a 1969 Walter Matthau movie (which, in turn, was an adaptation of an American version of a French stage play) has been so completely "Sandler-ized" that little of the source remains, which is just as well for all those involved in various earlier incarnations. The blame for the failure of Just Go with It falls squarely upon the shoulders of those in charge of this interpretation.

Sandler is perhaps not an ideal romantic lead - it probably has something to do with the state of arrested adolescence in which many of his characters find themselves - but that hasn't stopped him from making his share of romantic comedies, a few of which have been respectable (50 First Dates comes to mind). With this outing, however, the filmmakers have forgotten the #1 rule of the genre: the lovers must be shown to believably fall for each other. Just Go with It decides to dispose with such an old-fashioned approach and take a short cut. Because the leads are Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, it is assumed that these two will fall in love, so why bother with any romance? After all, the movie runs long enough as it is, so skipping the scenes in which the two friends gradually cross the line can be dispensed with and, except for one admittedly nice conversation in which the two engage, the story can make a bee-line for the happy ending. So that no one might mistake Nicole Kidman for the romantic lead, thereby jeopardizing the obviousness of Jennifer Aniston's claim to that role, she is not introduced until the movie is half over. She would have been better advised not to have been introduced until the movie is completely over. If she was the Best Actress Oscar front-runner for Rabbit Hole, which she is not, Just Go with It could have been her Norbit.

It's easy to see how the premise could provide the foundation for a passable romantic comedy; in fact, it's hard to see how things could go this far wrong. Danny (Sandler) is an elite plastic surgeon and a confirmed commitment-phobe. The former makes him one of the most important people in Los Angeles; the latter is nothing out of the ordinary, especially in Hollywood's version of reality. He has a foolproof method of assuring a series of one-night stands with girls half his age: wear a pretend wedding ring. His amorous targets fall for his sad tale of how he is a neglected and sometimes abused husband while recognizing there's no long-term hope for an entanglement. It's pity sex with no strings attached. Danny's assistant, Katherine (Aniston), regards her boss' love life with ill-disguised disgust, but that doesn't prevent her from secretly pining for a future with him.

Then Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) enters Danny's life and, after a night with her, he believes she's "the one." Unfortunately, she has seen the ring and the explanation he provides - that he and his wife are getting a divorce - isn't sufficient to allay her fears about falling for a married man. So, to prove his truthfulness, he must produce a wife. In a town full of actors, Danny chooses Katherine to play this part. The simple deception, however, becomes increasingly complicated with the addition of two children and a Teutonic lover (actually Danny's cousin Eddie, played by Nick Swardson in a role that seems custom-written for Rob Schneider). Once the scene shifts to Hawaii, Nicole Kidman joins the party as a college rival of Katherine's.

There aren't any good performances to be discovered in Just Go with It, with mediocrity being the highest level any of the actors strive for. Kidman, arguably the most accomplished of the film's thespians, offers the most unappealing turn with a portrayal that is nails-on-the-blackboard shrill. She is given a run for her money by Nick Swardson, who accomplishes the unthinkable of being more annoying than Rob Schneider could likely have been. Brooklyn Decker was cast for reasons too obvious to mention (the Andy Roddick cameo is a bonus). The kids are either awful or underdirected; it's tough to tell which. Sandler and Aniston are Sandler and Aniston. They play variations of characters whose skins they have inhabited for so long that it's impossible for them not to be at least moderately convincing. The lack of a romantic connection is likely more the fault of the screenplay than of a failing on their parts. There is a spark (although no smoke or fire) in the production's single successful romantic scene.

Those attending Just Go with It with the expectation of enjoying nearly two hours of Sandler's sophomoric antics will be disappointed. This is a more "adult Sandler" and the level of crudeness is surprisingly light (although there is one gag involving a dozing man with his hand in a toilet and a sleepy boy who feels the call of nature). Maybe a little more gross-out humor would have helped Just Go with It, if only to relieve the tedium associated with a movie whose sole purpose seems to be to find new ways to extend a one-hour story into a two-hour insomnia cure. It's difficult to determine who might be pleased by this movie: Sandler fans won't like the neutering of their hero, comedy lovers will be disappointed by the tepid level of humor, and rom-com devotees will be annoyed by the bungling of a staple storyline. Ignore the "just go" plea and just stay away.

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