Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Dennis Dugan
Stars: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Bailee Madison, Nicole Kidman, Nick Swardson, Griffin Gluck.
Just Go With It is actually a remake of the wonderful Cactus Flower (1969), which starred Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn in her Oscar winning role. Cactus Flower itself was a remake of a brisk French farce, but much of the freshness and acerbic humour has been lost in this retread co-written by Allan Loeb (The Dilemma, etc) and former actor turned writer Timothy Dowling (Role Models, etc). This is an Adam Sandler film, so it is aimed at a loyal and undemanding fanbase who will appreciate it, despite its saccharine nature.
Danny Maccabee (Sandler) is a philandering Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who broke off his wedding, but still carries his old wedding ring around with him. Women find it a turn on, and Danny has plenty of luck with the ladies. But then he falls in love with the beautiful and much younger school teacher Palmer (former Teen Vogue, FHM, Glamour and Sports Illustrated model Brooklyn Decker in her feature film debut).
Due to a misunderstanding, she believes that he is still married. Danny convinces her that he is in the middle of divorcing his wife. When Palmer insists on meeting the soon-to-be ex, Danny manages to convince his loyal assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) into playing the role. Before long her two precocious young children also become part of the elaborate deception. A holiday to Hawaii follows to allow the parties to better connect. What follows is rather predictable stuff, but there are a few laughs along the way.
The usual infantile humour and gross-out moments are kept to a minimum here, but when they do occur they are within the context of the narrative. Regular director Dennis Dugan (Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Grown Ups, etc) normally is heavy-handed in his approach to the material, but here he seems to have found a nice balance and directs with unusual restraint. This is the sixth collaboration between Sandler and Dugan, and here he manages to elicit a sympathetic and nuanced performance from his normally over the top star.
This is actually one of Sandler’s more likeable characters, and makes a change from the arrested adolescents he usually plays. Aniston has appeared in any number of bland romantic comedies, but here she has found a character of unusual depth and substance, which allows her a chance to deliver a more fully developed performance full of warmth and sassy humour. And Sandler and Aniston develop a strong chemistry that enables the central premise to work convincingly enough.
In a small role as the hated, pretentious former college rival, Kidman is the real surprise here. Her recent misguided forays into comedy (like Bewitched, etc) have demonstrated that this is not really her forte. But here she displays a great sense of comic timing and the ability to send up her own screen image. Nick Swardson hams it up completely with a faux German accent as Dolph Lundgren, a key player in the ruse who pretends to be Katherine’s fiance, and he provides most of the film’s lowbrow moments. And the two kids (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) who play Aniston’s children are excellent, particularly young Madison (recently seen as the younger incarnation of Hilary Swank in Conviction), who delivers a performance that displays a confidence and maturity beyond her tender years.
However, there is still some padding in the script, and some of the flab could have been trimmed. The Hawaiian locations look superb and Theo van de Sande’s cinematography offers some pleasures. If you are prepared to just go along with it (as the title aptly suggests) then this is a pleasantly entertaining and fitfully amusing romantic comedy, and one of Sandler’s better films of late.