Adam Sandler’s latest film a complete joke, but not in a good way
There’s something inherently familiar about Just Go With It, the Dennis Dugan directed Adam Sandler vehicle — and it’s not just the fact that the movie a remake. Adapted from the 1969 Walter Matthau film Cactus Flower, which was in turn an adaptation of a Broadway play based on the French play Fleur de cactus, Just Go With It follows the same comedy and emotional beats of almost every Adam Sandler romantic comedy that has come before.
Proving the rule of diminishing returns, though, Just Go With It might just be a new low for Sandler — not an easy feat as the comedian seems to be genuinely going out of his way to rot the brains of American audiences with his unfunny, idiot-pandering comedies.
Sandler stars as Dr. Danny Maccabee, a puffy-faced buffoon who has managed, despite his obnoxious behavior and unlikable demeanor, to find immense success as both a plastic surgeon and a ladies’ man. Ah, the joys of make believe — where every Adam Sandler movie is a chance for the actor to play house with some new beautiful actress. Danny has found a nice niche for himself in the dating world by pretending to be a man trapped in a loveless, abusive marriage. By putting on a wedding ring and hitting the bars, Danny is able to go home with some new 20-something-year-old every night. This ruse proves lucrative for Danny until he meets Palmer Dodge, a particularly beautiful young woman who, upon discovering Danny’s ring and believing him to be married, breaks it off with him just as Danny was beginning to fall in love (or at least lust) with her.
Not wanting to end this particular relationship so soon, Danny concocts an elaborate lie involving a fake divorce. Playing the part of his faux ex-wife is Danny’s secretary Katherine Murphy (Jennifer Aniston). Soon, though, the lie grows to involve Katherine’s children and eventually sends the entire group (along with Danny’s perpetually horny cousin Eddie, played by Nick Swardson) to Hawaii for a family vacation.
The biggest problem with Just Go With It is its unabashedly idiotic set-up. The movie is built on a premise that is farce — choosing broad comedy as camouflage for the fact that there were a million different ways Danny could have explained away the ring to Palmer instead of concocting an elaborate lie that would have never had a chance of being resolved on its own. Normally there’s not a problem with a comedy choosing to build its premise on a silly, slightly exaggerated plot point. Farce is the bread and butter of most sitcoms and the idea of characters doing stupid things has been fuel for comedy for hundreds of years.
Unfortunately, Just Go With It has a hard time establishing and picking a tone. The movie constantly switches between the usual, exaggerated goofiness of an Adam Sandler movie and attempts to be an emotionally honest romantic comedy for adults. The film’s brain-dead set-up and even more clueless characters dooms any chance of the film or its drama being taken seriously — sending the movie’s third act into a smoking tailspin.
The movie has just enough funny voices and juvenile humor to keep the children and frat boys in the theater laughing while still retaining a frustratingly one-note love story that will satisfy all the emotionally-deprived romantics in attendance — their own love life a shriveled shell of its potential, drained of any real human connection and primed just right to enjoy an almost insultingly simplistic, dashed-together film romance. In other words, this movie will be enjoyed by a good chunk of the Big Red-swilling, NASCAR watching, mullet-sporting Americans who are marching tirelessly towards the future prophesized by the film Idiocracy.
The first half of the movie plays like a weird, birth defect-riddled love child of Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live. The movie bounces back and forth from extremely silly special effects-heavy gags to overcooked encounters between Danny, Palmer and Katherine — each meeting digging Danny deeper and deeper into his lies.
Most of the film’s gags involve Danny’s plastic surgery business — a plot point that seemed designed purely to make the children in the theater giggle at prosthetic noses that would make Cyrano de Bergerac blush or a rubbery, plastic surgery addicted nightmare played by Kevin Nealon.
As the movie moves into Hawaii, though, the film seems to suddenly realize that there are probably people in the theater above the age of five and tries to hurriedly set up a love triangle between Danny, Palmer and Katherine.
To accomplish this, Sandler is thrust into a whiplash character arc that is dizzying to watch — if only because he artificially goes from a borderline creepy dirty old man who’ll gladly spend thousands of dollars on a lie in order to bed a woman barely out of high school to a man who’s supposed to show genuine love for a woman and two children — despite minute earlier giving exactly two shakes about their feelings or concerns. This change happens so fast, you’ll think you missed it in a blink. Trust me, I didn’t blink. It wasn’t there. Just Go With It is one of worst case of artificially injected romance in a romantic comedy that you’re likely to have seen in a long, long time.
As Katherine, Aniston does a fine job keeping pace with Sandler’s antics — doing a much better job than her co-star at selling the fact she might be falling for her long-time friend and boss. While Sandler ogling a bikini-clad Aniston — impressed with the sexy body she normally keeps hidden beneath mom clothes — is used to show Danny’s growing love for Katherine, Aniston actually manages to be invested in her character’s arc and show something akin to real emotion — or at least it buttery, high-cholesterol cousin that exists in family comedies. Unfortunately, the actresses’ attempts to breathe life into her role are suffocated by the cumbersome antics of her co-stars.
Because Adam Sandler is nothing but generous in dragging down the careers of others, Nicole Kidman and musician Dave Matthews have rather large, uncredited supporting roles as a rival couple whose appearance on the island threatens to expose Danny’s lies. Kidman and Matthews give the comedy their all — twisting and twirling around the film’s set like a couple of hyperactive buffoons — no doubt appreciative of all the cool points their work on the film will get them with their children. Neither bring much to the movie besides being an unexpected familiar face designed to wake audiences up from the sugar-coma that the movie was causing them to slowly sink into.
As on par with most Adam Sandler movies, more thought seems to have been put into the soundtrack for Just Go With It than the movie itself. The film’s music consists of genuinely good mash-ups featuring ‘80s pop music (mostly from The Police) combined with some current pop hits from artists such as Snow Patrol and Rihanna.
While those seeking genuine human drama will walk away with an empty heart and empty stomach, those coming for the same schtick that Sandler has been force-feeding audiences since the ‘90s will probably walk away happy — but only because their brains had been rotted by the comedian’s previous movies.
Just Go With It is a new milestone in the devolution of Adam Sandler’s career. The actor continues to plummet further and further down the rabbit hole of acting hell. That hell is not Sandler’s, though, but the personal damnation of genuinely talented comedians who continue to toil in obscurity while Sandler defecates out a two-hour comedy that is shaped and smells like every other movie he has ever done and still walks away with millions of dollars. Congratulations America, you’ve created a monster. Now let’s grab pitchforks and torches and chase it into a burning windmill.
Director: Dennis Dugan Notable Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Patrick, Brooklyn Decker, Dave Matthews, Nick Swardson and Nicole Kidman Writer(s): Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling based on the play Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.