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As thoroughly generic as its title, Just Go With It aims at two different constituencies, Adam Sandler’s rude-guy-humor fans and Jennifer Aniston rom-com loyalists and just partially hits both targets. Labored, repetitive and lacking a single moment of surprise in the course of its indulgent two hours, this Sony release nonetheless has one ace to play in the beauteous form of Brooklyn Decker, the slo-mo sight of whom striding out of the sea in a bikini during Super Bowl commercials last weekend no doubt guaranteed that guys won’t object too strenuously to this as a Valentine’s Day weekend date-night choice. Overall commercial outlook is very good.
It won’t mean anything to 99.9 percent of its paying customers, but this mildly racy, pictorially sunny PG-13 farce represents a very free reworking of the 1969 hit Cactus Flower (and its Broadway and Paris stage predecessors), with Sandler, Aniston and Decker in the Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn roles, respectively. The age bracket for the older two characters has been lowered by a decade or more, and little of the original remains in Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling’s adaptation other than the medical professions of the leads and some plot machinations leading to an ending that’s preordained in the first few minutes.
With the world-weariness of Funny People out of his system, Sandler treads familiar ground here as Dr. Daniel Maccabee, a glib Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who, for more than 20 years, has racked up considerable romantic mileage from the trick of wearing a wedding ring and pretending to be unhappily married. He has no trouble nailing the hottest young thing at a beach party, math teacher Palmer (Decker), though contrived complications lead to his subsequently lying to her that he’s not only married but has two children.
The only person Danny can’t put anything over on is his assistant Katherine (Aniston), a good-natured, no-nonsense divorcee who actually does have two kids. Very minor efforts — lab coat, drab hairstyle — have been made in the early doctor’s office scenes to make Aniston look plainer than she is, but these can’t disguise the fact that Katherine is the woman for Danny; he’s just too dazzled by his latest conquest to notice.
A couple of parties and medical scenes provide director Dennis Dugan (in his sixth collaboration with Sandler) the opportunities for easy yuks at the expense of patients who need some plastic surgery and those who have had too much. In the former category are a woman with one eyebrow considerably higher up her forehead than the other and a large lady with notably mismatched breasts because of an implant collapse. Notable among the latter is the very funny Kevin Nealon as an aging swinger with a face so frozen he can’t close his mouth to swallow a drink.
Understanding her boss’ dilemma as no one else can, Katherine gamely agrees to pose as Danny’s about-to-be ex-wife when Palmer insists upon verifying the truth of his tall tale. The kids (Bailee Madison, Griffin Gluck) get dragged into the act in the bargain, whereupon the whole group, along with Danny’s best friend Eddie (Nick Swardson), fly off to Hawaii, where the bedroom farce plays itself out — to diminishing returns — within the confines of a luxury resort.
The breeziness of the dialogue exchanges possess an agreeable casualness; the no-b.s. banter between Danny and Katherine makes them a convincingly good fit, and the variously motivated use of linguistic accents by Eddie (manic German) and Katherine’s young daughter (cultivated British) lightly enlivens matters. But most of the time you wonder how Palmer could be so good-natured that she’s not only willing to put up with the confounding shenanigans of her new acquaintances but actually keen to marry the central perpetrator of them.
Like Will Smith, Sandler appears to want to win approval by showing what a great guy his characters are; crude jokes to the side, he presents Danny as being motivated only by true love, as being great with kids and doing the right thing, however goofily. To his credit, however, he cuts a wide berth for his co-stars; in her big-screen debut, Decker gets plenty of time to prove her ease and natural allure in front of the camera, though Swardson, the kids and Nicole Kidman — in a surprising, over-the-top comic turn as a long-lost school friend Katherine encounters in Hawaii but would have preferred to remain lost — are considerably overexposed.
The beneficiary of the general excess is Aniston, who comes off as more energetic, alert and alive than she normally does in her generally formulaic movies. Whether it’s the joshing mode of much of her dialogue or just a happenstance of collaborating with these particular people, she seems to be having fun, and this raises her scenes a notch above the rest.
The extent of product placement in Just Go With It makes you want to escape to a deserted island — or even just to the desert — to recover from the commercial bombardment. The soundtrack’s barrage of familiar pop tunes, especially from the Police, is similarly overdone.
Release date: Friday, Feb. 11 (Sony)
Production: Columbia Pictures, Happy Madison Prods.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Nick Swardson, Brooklyn Decker, Dave Matthews, Bailee Madison, Kevin Nealon, Griffin Gluck
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenwriters: Allan Loeb, Timothy Dowling, based on Cactus Flower, screenplay by I.A.L. Diamond, stage play by Abe Burrows, based upon a French play by Barillet and Gredy
Producers: Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Heather Parry
Executive producers: Barry Bernardi, Allen Covert
Director of photography: Theo Van de Sande
Production designer: Perry Andelin Blake
Costume designer: Ellen Lutter
Editor: Tom Costain
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PG-13 rating, 117 minutes
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