Monday, February 14, 2011

Film Review with Robert Mann - Just Go With It

Just Go With It *

Another year, another Adam Sandler comedy, and yet again it’s directed by Dennis Dugan. From this statement you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Just Go With It, the latest in a string of Adam Sandler disappointments starting with 2007’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and including films from the three subsequent years including You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Funny People and Grown Ups, all of which (apart from Funny People, a Judd Apatow film which suffered from an odd blending of genres and the co-starring of Seth Rogen) saw Dugan directing and failed to even come close to being decent, with the possible exception of Grown Ups which managed to be okay.

What’s more, one of the screenwriters of Just Go With It – which has probably one of the most unusual and complicated inspirations for an Adam Sandler comedy, being based on the 1969 film Cactus Flower starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn, which itself was adapted from a Broadway stage play written by Abe Burrows, which in turn was based upon the French play Fleur de cactus – is Allan Loeb, the man who just last month brought us the screenplay for the dreadful Vince Vaughn/Kevin James comedy The Dilemma. Throw into the mix Jennifer Aniston – in her first collaboration with Sandler despite having known him for 20 years, the two having met before either of them became famous – whose performances in pretty much everything she has done lately have been rather bland and you have a film whose credentials have never been very encouraging. But, even by those standards, this film is a huge letdown.

Danny Maccabee (Adam Sandler) is a man, who after breaking up with his fiancé on their wedding day, discovers that pretending to be unhappily married is an almost surefire way to pick up women. Ever since, his life has been a non-stop string of one night stands and his work as a plastic surgeon has put him on the map and made him into a rather wealthy man with a somewhat selfish outlook on life. Everything changes, however, when he meets the beautiful – and much younger – Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a schoolteacher with whom he feels a deeper connection and believes that there could be a future with. There’s just one problem – she finds his fake wedding ring and calls everything off. Desperate, Danny seeks the advice of his assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), a plain and divorced single mother with two kids, who suggests that the best way out of his predicament is to tell Palmer that she is getting a divorce, which he does, only for her to insist on hearing it from his ex. Now comes the big favour as Danny begs Katherine to pose as his estranged wife. Everything is going well, until Katherine accidentally mentions her kids. As one lie evolves into another, Danny gets Katherine’s kids, Maggie (Bailee Madison) and Michael (Griffin Gluck), involved in his deception and things take a whole new turn when Michael blackmails Danny into taking them all on a trip to Hawaii. With Danny’s cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson) joining in the act by pretending to be Katherine’s husband, the trip to Hawaii seems to be going well until Katherine encounters Devlin Adams (Nicole Kidman), her old high school nemesis. As their old rivalry erupts once again, just one word from her could unravel the whole plan but, as a connection also starts to form between Danny and Katherine, in the process creating a strange love triangle, perhaps the right woman for Danny has really been in front of him all along.

Coming out of Just Go With It it is very clear that this film was made with one particular audience demographic in mind – men. Adam Sandler comedies have never really been the cleanest or most tasteful that you will see but even for him this film plunders new depths in its objectification of women, coming very close actually being demeaning to members of the opposite sex (and also sheep...don’t ask). As the primary object of affection, Brooklyn Decker seems to be present as eye candy and little more, spending most of the film with her cleavage on show, lots of shots focusing on her ‘assets’ so to speak, and wearing a variety of revealing outfits, including no less than two skimpy bikinis while Jennifer Aniston also dons a skimpy bikini in one scene and in another both Aniston and Nicole Kidman wear revealing hula girl outfits in an extremely suggestive scene. Even a lot of humour is extremely sexualised – certainly so much as to make the 12A rating awarded to this very questionable. The reason for all this – other than to appeal to horny teenagers, there is no clear one, especially as the effort that seems to have been put into making the female cast members look hot is not evident anywhere else in the film. With a lame and rather absurd premise that offers little that hasn’t been seen before and a storyline so weak that anyone with half a brain will figure out who Danny is going to end up with from the very beginning, the writing here is every bit as bad as that in ‘The Dilemma’, the dialogue being weak and unfunny and the characters being poorly developed caricatures who it is really hard to actually care about. By the time the film reaches its rushed and poorly developed – everything is explained away through some voiceover narration – conclusion, you will already have long seen the outcome coming. Some of this might perhaps be forgivable if the film at least proved to be really funny but unfortunately the predictable and obvious comic situations and mishaps, many of which seem to be recycled/stolen (delete as appropriate) from other, although not necessarily better, comedies, fail to raise more than few slight giggles. The humour is exactly what you would probably expect from a Sandler comedy, dumb and the exact opposite of smart but with a lot of humour bordering on gross out, the numerous plastic surgery related gags in particular, and dialogue that may be suggestive but rarely proves very funny, the combination of not so comic mishaps and lots of physical comedy really proves cringe worthy rather than laugh out loud funny. Of course, there is a funny gag every now and then but while some gags do hit the mark but the overall hit rate is very low. Of course, this is all just my opinion- everyone else in the screening I was in seemed to be laughing their asses off. There is little in the way of character development here, the closest we get being an opening scene set in 1988 showing us a younger Danny on his wedding day – sporting what is probably the biggest nose ever seen by man – overhearing his bride talking of cheating on him. Once how he comes to be the way he is gets established, events shift forward to the present day where the Adam Sandler of the opening scene makes way for the Adam Sandler we all know, complete with regular size nose. Here, Adam Sandler is just Adam Sandler, only with no decent material to work with. And with no real chemistry and no real development of their relationship, there is no reason to believe in Danny’s romance with Palmer – although this may be the point – and it certainly doesn’t help that Brooklyn Decker seems to have no character other than simply hot girl, the actress clearly having been cast for her looks rather than acting ability and all that is really required of her being to be tall, blonde, tanned and well proportioned in the breast department. There is considerably more chemistry between Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, who actually share a few quite convincing tender moments, but even she can’t overcome the poor characterisation or the limitations of her own acting ability. Looking rather plain...for a while, at least, she is less bland than usual, faring better while her character is in plain, unglamorous mode but falling back into old patterns following her character’s makeover which transforms her right back into the Jennifer Aniston we are familiar with. The kids here, meanwhile, are merely passable, leaning on the side of irritation and Nick Swarsdon’s fake German accent is one that may really grate on you. Out of the entire cast, the only person who actually comes across in any well is Nicole Kidman who, in a very unusual appearance, is probably the best thing in the film, being suitably stuck up and actually proving rather amusing even when other characters are less so. Unfortunately, just like an amusing performance by Channing Tatum could not save The Dilemma, Kidman’s performance is not enough to overcome the many many flaws that are present in this film. Some people will undoubtedly find this film funny but really this is a comedy that is lame and unfunny for the most part. Adam Sandler and Dennis Dugan have hit a new low in what isn’t just another bad Adam Sandler comedy – it is, in fact, his worst film in a long while – but yet another bad Hollywood comedy. Just Go With It? Don’t go with it.

Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

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