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Entries in Just Go With It [2011] (1)


Just Go With It (2011) Home Video Review


I don't know if I've shared my wife's Wedding Singer Thing, but it's important to understand when discussing Dennis Dugan's Just Go With It. In 1998, the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film rocketed to the top of her Favorite Films list; she loves its chemistry, comedy, and charm, and while I haven't watched it all the way through in quite awhile, I can't say I disagree. That was Sandler's first truly mature comedy, one in which he wasn't playing an out-sized five-year-old. Sure, his Robbie Hart character had some issues, but none so severe as to warrant calling the cops or a shrink at first glance. It was also Drew Barrymore's coming out party as a mature actress, her first mainstream hit in which the audience didn't still think of her as "Gertie" from E.T. at the end.

My wife is obsessed with finding what she calls "Another Wedding Singer", a new, cute, lightning-in-a-bottle rom-com that will bring back the warm gooeys. Like all great pop scientists, she starts with the key ingredients, meaning we've endured just about every Sandler and/or Barrymore film of the last decade-plus; this painful experiment has yielded about a 0.000000000001% return on investment (Music & Lyrics came close for her, and contains one of my all-time-favorite opening scenes). Sad to say, I reached my breaking point last night, and have officially abandoned the experiment.

To call Just Go With It a pathetic comedy makes the erroneous assumption that it's a comedy in the first place. If anything, it's the successor to Ocean's 12: a group of mostly attractive and talented actors travel to an exotic location under the guise of making a funny movie and instead end up riffing on their least-favorite scenes from terrible comedies.

Sandler plays Danny Maccabee, a plastic surgeon who wears a wedding ring to help him pick up women at bars. Long ago, he turned a fianceé's betrayal into the ultimate plan for getting Sympathy Ass, and has spent decades avoiding commitment (and, miraculously, disease). His assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), disapproves of his lifestyle, but in an enablingly dismissive "Oh, you!" kind of way. She's more focused on raising her two precocious kids, who, wouldn't you know it, say the damnedest things.

Danny meets a stacked, blonde bombshell named Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) at a party and they hit it off right away. Following a passionate night on the beach, Palmer finds the wedding band in Danny's pocket, setting into motion a series of lies that will inevitably cause the scoundrel to wind up with his co-worker (Sorry, where are my manners? SPOILER!).

Danny and Katherine hatch a plan to convince Palmer that they're in the middle of a divorce. Katherine gets a luxurious makeover so as to look like the kind of high-class woman who'd be married to a plastic surgeon, and the three meet for a passing-of-the-baton dinner. At the end of the evening, Katherine slips up and mentions her kids, whom Palmer naturally assumes are Danny's kids, and--

I can't do this. The long and short of it is, the mixed-up trio heads to Hawaii with the children and, for some reason, Danny's cousin/brother/something-or-other (Nick Swardson, sporting a high-larious fake German accent). While staying at a fabulous Hilton resort, they run into one of Katherine's old classmates and her husband (Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews, who, I assume, just happened to be on vacation at the same time/spot that Sandler and company started filming), and the rest of Just Go With It devolves into a laugh-free version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, crossed with a high-def travel brochure.

My instinct is to say that everyone involved in this movie should be ashamed of themselves, but I have only myself to blame. Sandler, Aniston, Decker, and company got to spend months in paradise, goofing off and not even thinking about work (though I'm sure the crew worked really hard to make this pile of crap look gorgeous). The main problem is that Just Go With It is all ingredients and no recipe; scenes meander and die, one after the other, for nearly two hours, all on their way to a conclusion that is both predictable and, strangely, furiously unsatisfying.

At the very last minute, Palmer and Danny decide to get married on the island. Everyone "just goes with it", despite the fact that, according to the narrative of their ruse, Danny and Katherine aren't even divorced yet. On top of that, the actual climax in which Danny decides, at the altar, that Palmer isn't the right girl for him, isn't even shown. Danny pops up at an ocean-side bar and recounts his story to Katherine--then the movie ends. I'm not suggesting that writers Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling would have come up with something hilarious or exciting at this late stage of the picture, but being deprived of a scene with potential forward momentum is a big middle-finger to those of us who waited (somewhat) patiently.

Then again, maybe kid-blowjob jokes, competitive hula dancing, and an extended gag about giving a sheep the Heimlich maneuver are what satisfies and tickles modern comedy audiences. I'm fully willing to admit that it could just be me. But the only thing that kept me half-interested in Just Go With It was completing the mental picture of Brooklyn Decker and Jennifer Aniston's tits. You might call that misogynist. I call it the reaction that the filmmakers were looking for in male audience members. There's so much thin fabric, thin wet fabric, and side-boob in this movie that I'm sure the strategy boiled down to, "If the non-jokes don't get 'em, maybe the pronounced areolae will!"

Speaking of Decker, I'm thoroughly puzzled by her acting choices. Throughout the film, I wondered why she insisted on covering up her European accent, especially because she's so bad at doing so. The joke's on me: she was born in Ohio and raised in North Carolina! Hers is the first case of a performer who's natural delivery sounds like a terrible actor trying to disguise their native speech. Amazing.

I can't even write this movie off as the poor execution of a great premise. The story is ultimately about a single mom so desperate for love that she props up a womanizing liar as a role model for her kids. The one thing it does right is to not paint Palmer as a seemingly nice girl who turns out to be mean or tragically flawed in some way; she's a good person from start to finish--which is why I'm glad she didn't wind up with Danny. I'm pretty sure she's the only one who actually benefits from the film's saccharine, happy ending, even though it looks like she gets a raw deal.

I'm done with Adam Sandler. That's not to say I won't watch or review any more of his movies, but I no longer feel obligated to expect anything from them--just as he, presumably, feels no obligation to entertain the people who pay to see them. I think the reason The Wedding Singer is frozen in amber for me and my wife is that it's the last movie he did where the pathos, heart, and comedy were mostly balanced. Ever since then, he's gone too far off the rails in either the Artsy-and-Dark or Lowest-Common-Denominator directions. Even this movie's title is an insult to sentient people everywhere, a quit-thinking-so-much nudge in the ribs by people whose only concerns are making truckloads of rube-cash and "tastefully" presenting spectacular breasts. Just Go With It makes boobs of us all.