Back in the ‘90s there was a time when it seemed like Adam Sandler was poised to become the Jimmy Stewart of the beer bong crowd. His films appealed to a predominantly prepubescent male audience that raced to them as if they were gospels of masculinity. Who can blame them? Sandler’s films take place in what seems to be an alternate universe where he gets to bed beautiful women (think Kate Beckinsale, Keri Russell, Salma Hayek, Drew Barrymore, etc.), live a ridiculously easy life, despite showing no signs of maturity, and he always has a conscientious message to deliver.
Truth be told his messages, despite their lacking subtlety and sometimes coherence, made for entertaining spectacles that were able to move us and make us laugh, with the best example of this being The Wedding Singer. Fast forward more than a decade and we still have Sandler playing the same sad clown he’s been playing for ages. The main difference being that nowadays his movies aren’t moving, they don’t have messages to deliver, and they most certainly have stopped being funny.
Just Go With It is the perfect example of everything you don’t want in your romantic comedy. Sandler plays Doctor Daniel Maccabee, a renowned Los Angeles plastic surgeon who spends his time frolicking with beautiful young women. He seduces them by pretending he’s married, which in Sandler’s world seems to be the ultimate aphrodisiac for hot blondes. “The power of the ring” as he calls it, comes from an innocent discovery he made when he found out his fiancée never really loved him.
Broken hearted in an ‘80s flashback, he vows never to have his heart broken again. Of course this doesn’t make much sense and audiences, regardless of their upbringing, might be morally inclined to dislike Sandler and the women he seduces, but hey, why not cut him some slack and see where this goes, right?
Maccabee finally sees the light after a one night stand with beautiful schoolteacher Palmer Dodge (Brooklyn Decker), a woman so innocent and transparent she could’ve only been created in Sandler’s “ideal woman” laboratory. It’s a shame that the film doesn’t bother much in creating realistic backstories for these characters. We should’ve doubted Palmer’s motives for at least a second. Young, hot blondes don’t want to marry Adam Sandler after one night of sex, right?
Sandler isn’t precisely the person who comes to mind when you think “matinee idol” but he displayed a certain charm in his films that made us see why someone would fall for him. However, as he became a bigger movie star, he started getting the impression that he was entitled to a certain amount of attractive women and now rarely even bothers to justify events that are preposterous to audience members. He should really be studying Woody Allen movies…
Anyway, Palmer finds Daniel’s wedding ring and instead of telling her the truth (who wouldn’t forgive a sex addict who pretends he’s married?) he decides it’s easier to lie some more and tell her he’s getting a divorce from his wife. So he haves his assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) and her children (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) pass off as his family.
Before long they’re off on a trip to Hawaii where all their problems will be solved. Here the movie tries to convince us of two things: first that Jennifer Aniston is a frumpy old maid (the scene where Daniel discovers she was actually hiding a bikini body is ridiculous). Second, we’re supposed to believe that Katherine, who technically is renting her children to this madman, is actually a devoted mother. If we grabbed this concept, changed the genre and cast Maria Bello in the part, we’d have ourselves one depressing indie flick.
Since most of the film takes place in Hawaii’s Grand Wailea, we are treated with lush vistas and tropical delights that distract us from the ridiculous plot developing in front of us. The DVD even includes a ten minute long commercial devoted to this luxurious hotel, which proves to be more efficient than the film’s storytelling. It’s truly a shame that Just Go With It conforms to being so mediocre. The laughs come at the service of racial, sexual and scatological jokes which are funny only in a “you poor sad thing” way.
Aniston and Sandler actually manage to achieve some chemistry but it’s sadly used to deliver some vile pieces of dialogue. This is especially disturbing because you can see the actors like each other and the movie’s hostile exchanges come off as truly forced and painful to watch. Somehow the movie seems obsessed with Eddie (played by Nick Swardson), Daniel’s dimwitted cousin who comes up with a German alter ego named Dolph Lundgren, just so he can come to Hawaii as well. Apparently there was lots of improv involved in developing this character and Swardson often delighted the other actors so much that they had to take breaks for laughing (or so we learn in a featurette) but onscreen, he comes off looking as an offensive throwback to Hollywood’s idea that different ethnicities make for supreme humor.
Nicole Kidman also has a small role as Devlin, Katherine’s high school nemesis, and it seems that the Oscar winning actress was the only one who understood how to handle a project like this. She infuses her scenes with a combination of blasé and just plain fooling around. She’s the object of plastic surgery jokes, scat nicknames, and even shakes her butt in an unnecessary dancing contest, but she maintains a strange amount of dignity throughout these events. Even when she tries to make fun of buckteeth, applauds Dave Matthews’ anal abilities (don’t ask!) and is the butt of the film’s most recurring joke, she keeps her forehead up, with a silly glint in her eyes that sparkles with the promise of the check she would collect after filming.