As in "Grown Ups," the moral of the new Adam Sandler comedy, "Just Go With it," stresses the need for self-absorbed, middle-aged celebrities to spend meaningful time with their children, or someone else's. Judging from the results, the script and production of the film, directed by frequent Sandler collaborator Dennis Dugan, doesn't seem to have taken up too much of anyone's time. So. It'd be nice if Sandler and company spent more meaningful time with their loved ones as a result.
The film is not nice. It lacks the funny. It should be called "Let's Not and Say We Did." I saw it with a crowd, and the peals of silence were deafening.
"Just Go With It" works from a long line of photocopies. It's based on the 1969 film "Cactus Flower," in which Walter Matthau played the horn-dog dentist -- "that tooth jockey," as he's called -- who pretends to be married to his assistant, Ingrid Bergman, so he can sustain his ruse about being a married man, which helps keep the dentist's kooky, half-his-age girlfriend, Goldie Hawn, comfortably at bay.
That film was adapted by I.A.L. Diamond from Abe Burrows' Broadway play, which came from a 1964 French stage farce by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy. New York theatergoers can assess for themselves the staying power of "Cactus Flower," as it's coming back to Broadway this spring. Moviegoers, meantime, can assess "Just Go With It," tailored for Sandler in the role of an amiably caddish and fabulously successful plastic surgeon, and Jennifer Aniston as his improbably forgiving assistant.
Aniston's character, a single mother with two children, agrees to pose as her boss's wife so that Sandler's latest squeeze (played, or rather posed, by Brooklyn Decker) believes he's about to get divorced. This will retroactively explain why she found a wedding ring in the plastic surgeon's pants pocket, which ... oh, whatever. The set-up suffers from aches and pains. It's arthritic. Sandler's character, supposedly the funniest guy in any given room, mocks his lover's outdated reference to "MacGyver," yet there he is, referencing "Children of the Corn."
On the flimsiest of pretexts, the boob-job jockey and his fake family end up in Hawaii with the girlfriend, accompanied by the Aniston character's fake boyfriend, who is also the surgeon's hapless cousin, played by Nick Swardson. The fake boyfriend poses as an obnoxious German fellow named Dolph Lundgren. The movie slags off fake Germans and real Latinos, African-Americans and Hawaiians in weird, off-handed, ineffectual ways. Dugan's drab visual sense has never hurt him (or Sandler) at the box office. At least "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" had the courage of its slapstick convictions, and some sociopolitical nerve. Lousy with product placement and star fluffing, "Just Go With It" offers only one point of interest beyond the breasts of its second female lead: Aniston's barely disguised disdain for her material. Sandler perpetually cracks himself up with lines that aren't funny, until you think: Is this man on a Red Skelton fellowship? And in this economy, am I the only one having trouble relating to people who jet off to Hawaii on a moment's notice, just to keep an improv exercise going for 110 minutes?
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language).
Running time: 1:50.
Cast: Adam Sandler (Danny); Jennifer Aniston (Katherine); Brooklyn Decker (Palmer); Nick Swardson (Eddie); Nicole Kidman (Devlin); Dave Matthews (Ian); Bailee Madison (Maggie); Griffin Gluck (Michael).
Credits: Directed by Dennis Dugan; written by Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling, based on the I.A.L. Diamond screenplay "Cactus Flower," based on the play by Abe Burrows adapted from the play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy; produced by Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo and Heather Parry. A Columbia Pictures release.