The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Just Go With It
Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler share a tender moment amidst the lowbrow humor of Just Go With It.

I have a love/hate relationship with Adam Sandler. He's made movies I've really liked and movies I've really hated. I went into his latest, the romantic comedyJust Go With It, hoping that it would be along the lines of 50 First Dates. That picture had a sweetness that caught me off guard; it was as though Sandler was expanding the scope of his humor, so that it allowed room for identifiable human behavior (as opposed to, say, The Waterboy, which was total exaggeration). Well, I got about half of what I wanted. If only it wasn't for the other half…

In the film - a loose remake of the Walter Matthau/Goldie Hawn comedy Cactus Flower - Sandler plays Danny, a plastic surgeon, and Jennifer Aniston is his longtime assistant, Katherine. For years, the single Danny has been using a wedding ring and fake sob stories to pick up women. He then relates his misadventures to Katherine, who offers sarcastic commentary on them. At a party one night, while not wearing the ring, he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) and falls in love for real. She discovers the ring and immediately breaks things off, believing him to be married. At Katherine's suggestion, he tells Palmer that he's actually days away from signing his divorce papers. She agrees to get back together with him - provided that she can get confirmation of all this from his soon-to-be ex-wife. Danny convinces Katherine to assume the role, but before long, the lies spiral out of control and Katherine's two young children are drawn into the scheme as well.

To make a long story short, everyone ends up together in Hawaii, including Danny's cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson), who poses as Katherine's lover. Coincidentally, Katherine runs into an old rival, the annoyingly superficial Devlin (Nicole Kidman). She then tells her own lie: that she's happily married to Danny. What follows is a series of farcical situations in which everyone tries to pull off multiple lies at the same time. If you guessed the experience causes Danny and Katherine to look at each other in a different light…well, you've obviously seen a romantic comedy before.

I would not have expected Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston to have good chemistry, but they do. From a recent appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show, I learn that they have been friends for twenty years. That familiarity comes across on screen; in fact, Danny and Katherine have that easygoing repartee you often see between people who know each other as well as they know themselves. Sandler brings out the best in Aniston, who is looser and livelier than we've seen her on screen in a long time. They share some undeniably nice moments together, especially near the end. Believe it or not, it isn't difficult to imagine that these two could fall in love.

The addition of Nicole Kidman is welcome too. She's very good here, playing one of those artificial people who don't realize everyone else is on to their artificiality. In one of the best scenes, Devlin and Katherine compete in a hula competition, both of them determined to prove something by emerging victorious. It's delightfully goofy, elevated as it is by the two actresses going for broke.

The problem with Just Go With It is everything else. The good stuff I just mentioned is soiled by the movie's utter Sandler-ization. What I mean is that instead of trusting the performances and the potential of the material, it has been loaded with all the same jokes you find in a typical Adam Sandler comedy: fat jokes, gay jokes, poop jokes, crotch injury gags, etc. This stuff doesn't belong here, and it prevented the movie from ever making a genuine emotional connection with me - something that 50 First Dates most certainly did.

Is there another big star who is as insulated as Sandler? He again surrounds himself with his less funny pals (in addition to Swardson, Peter Dante, Allen Covert, and Kevin Nealon also pop up). Again, he relies on punchlines nearly identical to those found in many of his other pictures. Also again, his director is Dennis Dugan, the unimaginative hack who directed Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, and Grown Ups. Dugan's sense of comic timing is negligible; every joke hits the ground with the subtlety of a watermelon being tossed from a rooftop. Granted, Sandler has made a lot of hits with his group of cronies, yet the movies are starting to seem annoyingly similar. While his occasional attempts at breaking away from the pack - Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Funny People - have not been as financially successful, each of them is more interesting than the stuff his "Happy Madison" team turns out by rote. I wish the actor, who has a sharper sensibility and more dramatic range than he typically lets on, would stop playing it safe so often.

And that is my gripe with Just Go With It. It has an intriguing premise, good interplay between Sandler and Aniston, and a solid supporting turn from Kidman. It doesn't need people falling in mud, someone getting their hand pooped on, or Danny getting nailed in the balls. This movie could have been so much more, but instead, it's so much less.

( out of four)

Just Go With It is rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language. The running time is 1 hour and 56 minutes.