Friday, February 11, 2011

Just Go With It
The Bridesmaid Finally Becomes The Bride

Jennifer Aniston as Katherine and Adam Sandler as Danny in Dennis Dugan's comedy "Just Go With It". 

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Friday, February 11, 2011

Dennis Dugan's comedy "Just Go With It", based on I.A.L. Diamond's screenplay of the film "Cactus Flower", starring Ingrid Bergman, opened today across the U.S. and Canada.  The film stars Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston and is only barely better than advertised, capturing a modicum of the sweetness and charm of "The Wedding Singer", one of Mr. Sandler's more admirable films.  That however, is only due to the chemistry in several select moments between Mr. Sandler and Ms. Aniston.

Danny (Mr. Sandler) cynically tries on the "married man" status to meet women.  He dons a wedding ring.  Like Colt 45, this act has worked every time.  Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) is one woman however, who gets away.  An in-demand Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Danny recruits his assistant Katherine (Ms. Aniston) to play along as his ex-wife, to keep up appearances to woo Palmer back into the fold.  One thing leads to another, and you needn't have seen the infinitely better "Cactus Flower" to know how this new film ends.

"Just Go With It" has a moment or two of warmth and possibility but the bulk of the film is washed away by the scatological humor, sight gags and product placement (including hybrids of Sting's songs) it relies on to keep itself afloat.  In its Hawaii locale Mr. Dugan's film sinks and almost drowns.  There are a few genuinely funny moments, but the cynicism of labels (Gucci, Tiffany & Co., etc.) and Rodeo Drive makes one or two characters unappealing. 

You ask yourself at least three questions as you watch this comedy: ruse or not, why would Palmer want to meet the ex-wife of the man she takes a liking to?  Why does she need to?  Why is a babysitter so ridiculously stereotyped?  And the hairdresser?  And the pregnant mother in slow motion?  Why are those moments in this film?  What purpose do they serve?  As I watched I thought, 'what is the point of all of this?'  Why exactly, is it needed?  And why am I being held hostage to it?  Why didn't I walk out of the theater?

"Just Go With It" just goes with constant mean-spiritedness for its duration, taking cheap shots at many unnecessary targets.  There's a cringe-worthy moment of perhaps unintended blackface.  My heart literally sank when I saw it.  (Danny even points it out with a mocking reference.)  Can Allan Loeb (writer of "The Dilemma") and Timothy Dowling just trust themselves to write a funny story without having the predictably lazy laugh objects in the way? 

Dr. Yes: Brooklyn Decker as Palmer in "Just Go With It".  Sony

I'm convinced that audiences are conditioned to reflexively "laugh" at any and all of the Hollywood slop put in front of them.  Eat this, the big screen studio shouts.  And we do.  Even if it isn't all that funny in the first place.  "Just Go With It" is an apt title essentially meaning: just laugh at it.  The film is angry more than funny.  It dispenses with its targets of stupidity with full-bore menace.  The Botox punchline is a laugh-line that doesn't generate any.  One specific cameo may be an in-joke of sorts but the cameo character portrayed becomes just another hateful specimen in a game of slash and burn.  Much of the film rings false, especially the cameo character.

And that's the point.  "Just Go With It" is about layers of deception and deep cover, and what happens when the subterfuge is so much a part of the everyday that it becomes the accepted daily dose of reality.  Everybody in the film lies to themselves, perhaps to keep from crying or feeling in general.  Slapstick dominates the landscape.  Some characters get the short end of the stick too much, mercifully flayed like a piñata or poor Jim Caviezel in "The Passion Of The Christ".  I wonder if any of the stars reportedly so up in arms about Ricky Gervais last month at the Golden Globes appeared in this film?  How on earth could anything in Mr. Dugan's Beverly Hills/Hawaii film be funnier than what Mr. Gervais said in Beverly Hills in January?

As for the film's leads, Mr. Sandler's comedy is tinged with anger and resentment, as it has been for years now.  It's as if he's afraid someone will get too close to the characters he's constructed and expose them as frauds.  Mr. Sandler's onscreen characters are often coiled up, emotionally removed and bitter young men who scream "bah humbug" when their flaws are called out.  In "Funny People" his George Simmons rips Seth Rogen's Ira from pillar to post.  In more serious films Mr. Sandler's characters (in "Punch Drunk Love" and "Reign Over Me", both which I liked a lot) are a step beyond the actor-comedian's comic persona in "Mr. Deeds" or "You Don't Mess With The Zohan": combustible, volatile, fully unleashing the thinly-veiled rage that percolates and remains suppressed beneath his comedic cousins.

Yet I believe "Just Go With It" is Jennifer Aniston's film.  Today is her birthday.  At times she unshackles from a string of downright awful films (including "Love Happens" and "The Bounty Hunter") to bring a little depth and less caricature here, but only briefly.  She and the other women in "Just Go With It" are pitted against each other in a battle royale of eye candy and hot bodies, which for the record Ms. Decker, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, easily wins. 

Ms. Aniston, who pretty much plays bridesmaid in many of her films ("Friends With Money", "The Break-Up", most of "He's Just Not That Into You") has a sweet but forlorn presence in parts of "Just Go With It".  Her Katherine is hurting.  Her true feelings and wishes flicker in her eyes, and the life of this film gets very close to flatlined.

With: Nick Swardson, Griffin Gluck, Bailee Madison, Allen Covert, Rachel Dratch, Jackie Sandler.

"Just Go With It" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language.  The film's running time is one hour and 46 minutes. 

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