Adam Sandler is a frustrating actor, he wields a lot of power in Hollywood and is obviously talented. He continually produces films for him, and his friends, to star in through his Happy Madison Productions and still has time to stretch as an actor by appearing in other people’s projects such as Judd Apatow’s “Funny People”. So why is he frustrating? Because with all of the above, he continues to pump out juvenile sub-par comedies that really are aimed at the lowest common denominator. His films range from truly awful (“Little Nicky” & “The Waterboy”) to fairly good fun (“The Wedding Singer” & “Click”) but unfortunately most fall into the middle, mediocre and forgettable (“Happy Gilmore” & “Anger Management”).
So, where does his latest Happy Madison Production “Just Go With It” fall? Thankfully it falls at the slightly higher end of the scale. It is a pleasant romantic comedy that offers up a few laughs and a sweet performance from “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston. That doesn’t mean the film is without flaws, it has many. Flaw one, Adam Sandler just isn’t loveable enough (more on that later). Flaw two, the film is uncomfortably sexiest in parts (oh, we will come back to this as well). Flaw three, Nicole Kidman (do I need to explain this?).
“Just Go With It” is a remake of the 1969 film “Cactus Flower” that starred Walter Matthau, Goldie Hawn and Ingrid Bergman. The setting has been updated and Sandler is now a Plastic Surgeon rather than a Dentist, but the story is similar.
Danny (Sandler) is a famous, rich and successful Hollywood plastic surgeon who spends his time having superficial one night stands by pretending he is in a terrible, abusive marriage and making the women feel sorry for him. This is a successful strategy until he meets the beautiful Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), the one woman that he doesn’t con. However, she finds his fake ring and, in a panic, he pretends that he is in the process of a divorce. Palmer complicates issues by insisting that she has to meet the wife and hear about the divorce from her. Danny convinces his assistant Katherine (Aniston) to play his wife. And zany mayhem ensues. The film continues to escalate by adding Katherine’s children into the mix, a ‘family’ holiday to Hawaii and Katherine’s own skeleton-in-the-closet in the form of high school nemesis Devlin (Kidman).
On the positive side, “Just Go With It” is a well made romantic comedy that follows formula and all of the supporting actors do their best to make it charming fun. Brooklyn Decker is sweet and gorgeous as Palmer and she looks great in a bikini (see the note about sexism below). Jennifer Aniston is a good actress who has great comedy chops. Just go back and watch the later episodes of “Friends”, she was great. This is one of the better films she has made lately because she has terrible taste in choosing roles. In this film she is sweet, sexy and believable. Lastly, 12 year old Bailee Madison, as Katherine’s daughter Maggie, is still a young actress to watch. She was last seen by me in “Brothers” and she has an amazing screen presence.
On the negative side, Adam Sandler just isn’t as sweet and loveable as he thinks he is. His characters (and Danny is no different) are mostly puerile, socially awkward boys in a man’s body. He, at times, exposes his soft underbelly but mostly he yells, insults or abuses the people around him. When a character fits Sandler, like the emotionally damaged Robbie in “The Wedding Singer”, it just works, it plays to Sandler’s own personality. When the character calls for charm, sweetness and emotion (like in this film), Sandler struggles. I don’t think he is a good enough actor to play against type unless he has a great director to guide him like Judd Apatow (“Funny People”) or Paul Thomas Anderson (“Punch Drunk Love”). “Just Go With It” director Dennis Dugan (“Problem Child” & “Happy Gilmore”) is not a deep director and I think he probably just lets Sandler do what he wants.
This film also suffers from, I’m sure unintentional, a dose of sexism that is almost unforgivable in this day and age. As I said above, Sandler really does seem like a teenager in a man’s body and there are times that I really think he just can’t control the teenager. The first thing that attracts Danny to Palmer is her boobs, of course, but the films problems come later when the relationship is growing, we keep getting gratuitous shots of Palmer at the beach in her bikini with Danny commenting on how hot his girlfriend is. I was accepting this because we have established that Danny is shallow and superficial. However (minor spoiler, but I am sure no surprise in a formulaic romantic comedy) the moment that Danny realises that he is really in love with his assistant Katherine because she is sweet, loving and smart is the moment that Aniston takes of her clothes and reveals her perfect bikini body! It would have been refreshing to have had Danny fall in love with Katherine just for who she is rather than what she looks like.
Okay, so that’s it. “Just Go With It”, an above average Adam Sandler vehicle that should satisfy those starved for a little, simple formula romantic comedy. The film is flawed but overall it is kind of fun. A date movie where you want to spend more time thinking about your date than the movie.
– David McVay
“Just Go With It” opens at Australian cinemas tomorrow.