Just Go With It

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Just Go With It
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Danny (Adam Sandler) is a respected Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, unmarried and with money to burn. He uses a fake wedding ring to attract women, a ruse that works surprisingly well. It backfires, though, when he meets a beautiful, young school teacher, Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), and she finds the ring. Now, Danny has to convince his working mom assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), to help him prove he is divorced and “Just Go with It.”

Adam Sandler films are, to varying degrees, treated with disdain by non-fans and loved by fans. Such films as “Little Nicky” and “Grownups” are good examples of the bad ones, while “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates” (both with Drew Barrymore) are charming rom-coms. “Just Go with It” falls more into the realm of the charmers, although with more of fantasy flair.

Adam Sandler gives a relaxed, assured performance as Danny, a role that he wears like a comfortable suit. But, the thing that surprises me with his latest vehicle is Jennifer Aniston as Katherine. It has been a long time since she has had a good, believable character – maybe “The Good Girl” (though some may argue). Adam Sandler gives the actress the chance to play a divorced working mom who must pretend to be the glamorous soon-to-be ex-wife, named Devlin (there is a continuous gag about that name that gets a laugh or chuckle). She pulls off both sides of Katherine/Devlin and has terrific chemistry with her co-star, Sandler. (I did not know, until after I saw “Just Go With It,” that the two have been long time buddies.)

The supporting cast helps flesh out this fantastical fantasy but there is no basis in reality in the script by Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling, adapting I.A.L Diamond’s 1969 “Cactus Flower.” Money is no object in this tale of love as Danny pursues beautiful, smart and only 23-years old Palmer. It is lie upon lie as Danny tries to convince her that he is no longer married. When she demands to meet his ex, Devlin, he fabricates more lies, bringing, first, Katherine into the scheme (he pays through the nose for her cooperation with a Beverly Hills shopping spree). Then, when Palmer learns he and Devlin have kids, she wants to meet them, too. More lies and Danny, Palmer, Katherine and her kids, Maggie (Bailee Madison) and Michael (Griffin Gluck) along with Danny’s best friend Eddie (Nick Swardson), posing as Devlin’s German squeeze, Dolph - yet another lie – head to Hawaii so Michael can swim with the dolphins. Not realistic, but told with a good heart. Nicole Kidman also gets good mileage as the real Devlin, Katherine’s frenemy from college.

All of this lying should put a negative curve on “Just Go With It,” but the laughs and likable characters make this a better than average Adam Sandler film. It is unbelievable that the characters – a physician, a schoolteacher, a working mom with school aged kids – can just up and leave for Hawaii at a moment’s notice. Then again, real life Adam Sandler probably does just that all the time. The film looks great (how can you miss with Hawaii as a backdrop) and long-time Sandler director Dennis Dugan does a solid, though pedestrian, job. Other techs are fine.

Fans of Adam Sandler will enjoy “Just Go With It” and those critical of him will likely snub the movie – check out the Rotten Tomatoes meter. However, I like Adam Sandler, appreciate well-timed slapstick and enjoy a good romantic comedy. The nice chemistry between the stars and the goofy Sandler humor makes me give it a B-.

Danny Maccabee's (Adam Sandler) only attempt at marriage taught him one thing - that a wedding ring and a sob story could be powerful chick magnets.  Now a middle aged, successful Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Danny's surprised to find himself wanting to commit to the much younger Palmer (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker), but he's had to concoct a lie to explain the ring she finds in his pants pocket.  Palmer wants to meet the soon-to-be-ex-wife he's made up on the fly, so Danny persuades his long time office manager Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) to play the role.  Of course, one lie leads to a pile up and Danny, his best friend Eddie (Nick Swardson, TV's "Reno 911!"), Katherine and even her two kids learn to "Just Go With It."

Who would have thought that after failing to strike sparks with romcom costars like Steve Zahn, Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler that it would be old buddy Adam Sandler to make Jennifer Aniston shine?  And who could have believed after the ugly production that was "Grown Ups" that director Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore") could stage some comedic visual gems?  This adaptation of of all things, "Cactus Flower," by Allan Loeb ("The Dilemma") and Timothy Dowling ("Role Models") indulges in Sandler's baser instincts, a constant complaint that will probably continue ad infinitum, but it also features some gonzo schticks that the cast pull off.

The film begins by establishing Danny's back story (with Sandler's real wife Jackie playing the horrendous 'almost' version), then jumps forward and wallows around a bit in some easy medical humor.  Kevin Nealon is a rich guy whose face can no longer movie, Rachel Dratch has some fun with severely mismatched eyebrows.  In one great gag, Dugan uses a patient's POV to frame a conversation between Danny and Katherine as they each apply nipple numbing cream. In the 'let's get the bathroom humor rolling' department, Danny learns Katherine's household call their poops Devlins, named after her arch rival in college.  Then Danny meets Palmer and the real action begins.

There's really nothing inherently funny about the basic outline, a premise that's been done to death.  Katherine pulls out all the stops to portray 'Devlin,' a wife who clearly must be divorced, then slips and talks to her kids on her cell in front of Palmer.  The kids manipulate their mom's boss into acting classes and a trip to Hawaii.  Eddie leeches on as 'Dolph Lundgren,' 'Devlin's' European lover.  They all set off to a luxurious resort and possible wedding site for Danny and Palmer.  If things weren't complicated enough with everyone sporting different identities, the real Devlin Adams (Nicole Kidman?!) shows up if, for nothing else, than as a device to reconfigure the two 'couples' for an evening.

Sure, there's always going to be a certain amount of eye-rolling for an Adam Sandler movie. There's the requisite crotch injury, jiggling bikini tops and toilet humor.  The loser in the romantic triangle is too neatly and abruptly fobbed off.  But there are also looney forays into sheep shipping, hula competitions and coconut schmoochies.  And as is also the case with much of the Sandler oeuvre, there is an underlying sweetness.

Sandler and Aniston look like they're really enjoying each other - Aniston hasn't seemed this relaxed on screen since her last indie.  Swarsdon's 'Dolph' is over the top, but damn if the guy isn't funny doing it.  The astonishingly good child actress Bailee Madison of 2009's "Brothers" has fun working out a fake British accent as Katherine's daughter Maggie and Griffin Gluck is natural and keeps us on his side as he takes Danny for all he can get.  Kidman seems to be straining, working a bit too hard to fit in, but her presence alone is comical.  Sandler regular Allen Covert ("The Wedding Singer") makes a late cameo as a character referred to throughout the film, but Rob Schneider is nowhere to be seen (a first?).

"Just Go With It" - a horrible title by the way - won't appeal to anyone who cannot stand Sandler, but for those who can at least put up with his juvenile scatological tendencies, this is one of his better ones.  It's the Barrymore effect with Aniston on both the giving and receiving ends.

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