Film Review: Just Go with It

Attention boys and girls over 13! Adam Sandler's traveling moviemaking circus is rolling out yet another monster hit! Girls in bikinis! Smutty jokes and laughable freaks! Fun times in Hawaii! Step right up, boys and girls!

Adam Sandler was three years in old in 1969 when the movie Cactus Flower was released—an adult romantic comedy starring real adults in a story about a middle-aged dentist (Walter Matthau) who, in order to avoid marriage to his 21-year-old girlfriend (Goldie Hawn), tells her he’s already married. A big lie. But then the doc decides he does want to marry the girlfriend and therefore needs to produce a wife whom he can divorce. His loyal office assistant (Ingrid Bergman) agrees to be the pretend wife in order to explain it all to the girlfriend. Only the girlfriend backs out when she sees that the dentist and his assistant are made for each other. Which, of course, they are.

The screenplay of Just Go with It refashions this basic plot to make a more contemporary romantic comedy—i.e., one to gratify the chronologically adult but still smut-hungry millions of Adam Sandler fans. This time the doctor, Danny (Sandler), is not a dentist but a Southern California plastic surgeon (the better to conjure up some cruel visual jokes), and since he was jilted by one bride (played by Sandler’s real wife, Jackie) 20 years before, he discovered that wearing a wedding ring is a guaranteed way to hook up with drop-dead-gorgeous girls. (Really?) But then he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker, Sports Illustrated’s latest swimsuit cover girl), a schoolteacher who’s as sweet as she is sexy—and she is not turned on when she discovers Danny’s wedding ring. Desperate to prove he’s not actually married and win her back, he asks advice from his best friend and office assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), who tells him he has to pretend to get a divorce. Palmer is somewhat mollified, but—as per the 40-year-old plot—she wants to hear the wife’s side of the break-up. So, yes, Katherine agrees to play Mrs. Plastic Surgeon.

Now it’s clear from the beginning that although Danny lusts after Palmer, Katherine is the girl for him. In fact, the best thing about Just Go with It is the quirky but easy chemistry between Sandler and Aniston. They are loose and funny and simply good together—so it’s a joy to watch them. The same cannot be said of some of the other characters in this mash-up of a movie.

Take Katherine’s two kids, Maggie (Bailee Madison) and Michael (Griffin Gluck). She’s a mini aspiring actress who “does” accents and who’s on all the time, and he’s a manipulative man-child in waiting who says he’ll pretend to be Danny’s son only if he gets to swim with dolphins in Hawaii. Which happens to be the rather flimsy excuse to transport the entire “Swiss Family Nightmare,” as Danny calls his entourage, to the exotic tropical island of Maui. The vacationing group includes Palmer; Katherine and her kids; Danny’s cousin (comic Nick Swardson), who tells Palmer he’s Katherine’s German boyfriend “Dolfe” Lundgren; Katherine’s college roommate/nemesis (Nicole Kidman) and her husband (Dave Matthews). All of these people—every one of them—are potty-mouths, and every one is living at least one lie (possibly three or four), which naturally creates endless comic possibilities before all the lies get unraveled and a plethora of happy endings ensue.

For all of its predictability, there are a few nice surprises in the film—in addition to the unexpected rapport between Sandler and Aniston. Ms. Decker, of course, is spectacular-looking as she arises from the surf in her teeny-weeny yellow bikini—but when fully clothed and on dry land she displays the equally spectacular aplomb of a born movie star. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the odd casting of Nicole Kidman as Katherine’s lifelong enemy Devlin. (Throughout the film, by the way, the name Devlin is used as a synonym for a human waste product—a joke that quickly runs its course.) Viewers may rub their eyes in disbelief while watching Kidman and Aniston—wearing grass skirts and coconut-shell bras—fiercely and funnily compete in a hula dance-off.

Mention must also be made of two memorable cameos: Kevin Nealon as the Hollywood has-been who was done in by too much plastic surgery (and who greatly resembles the formerly handsome ex-athlete and stepfather of a currently hot celebrity clan); and Rachel Dratch as another victim of a surgical disaster, a woman who wound up with one way wayward eyebrow. Priceless.