When you pay your money for an Adam Sandler comedy from the star’s own Happy Madison production company, you know what you’re buying: Genial sloppiness, loosely paced scenes, adult men in shorts and tee-shirts behaving boyishly, jokes about girls’ boobs, jokes about guys’ boners, horseplay, funny voices, sunny weather, and golf. And still, with the bar set as low as a limbo contest on the beach, Just Go With It is a bummer — slack rather than loose, tired rather than fun.
Only in such a nearsighted universe is Jennifer Aniston not hot enough for Sandler. He plays Danny, a middle-aged plastic surgeon whose near-marriage years ago to a cheating gold-digger has left him too burned to fall in love. Still, he’s player enough to wear a wedding ring as a way to bag sympathetic chicks attracted to his sweet-goof brand of married man looking for temporary comfort. Aniston is Katherine, Danny’s loyal (as well as funny, smart, pretty, grown-up) office nurse/assistant, a divorced mother of two young kids who rolls her eyes at her boss’s transparent pick-up ways. His game works until Danny meets a sweet young bombshell named Palmer (swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, more than living up to script requirements). Danny thinks Palmer might be The One, except she thinks he’s married, so he needs to invent a story about how he’s getting a divorce, and then Palmer (an ethical knockout — and a sixth grade math teacher!) insists on meeting his ex-wife-to-be. Soon Katherine is passing as Danny’s wife, Danny is pretending Katherine’s kids are his own (Palmer luvvvvs kids!), and they’re all in Hawaii (vacation for the production crew!) along with Danny’s cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson), who pretends to be Katherine’s German boyfriend. Then they all run into Nicole Kidman playing Katherine’s college nemesis and musician Dave Matthews as her husband — a whole other story.
Just Go With It is based on the 1969 movie Cactus Flower (starring Goldie Hawn in the bombshell role); the movie was adapted from Abe Burrows’ Broadway hit of the same name; and Burrows took his inspiration from Fleur de cactus, a French farce. But you can say adieu and aloha to all farce here, French-style or otherwise. There’s no place for sharp zing in a smile-y script in which everyone is blandly nice, even when they’re lying and cheating. The scenes with the kids (played by child actors Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) cloy like jellybeans stuck in teeth. The scenes with Kidman (out to have a lark as a comedienne) look like comedy-class exercises. A talent competition in which Kidman and Aniston join other female hotel guests in demonstrating their hula dance moves is vaguely humiliating to every lady involved. (Those voted off the stage early include a shriveled old woman and a plain fat one.)
The movie is saved from utter disaster, though, by Jennifer Aniston. She’s got expert comic timing when all those around her have none; she’s got lightness and finesse when everyone else is being indulgently silly. She plays like a grown-up; she looks fab. And she gets a real commitment out of Sandler — her performance makes him grow up, too. Amidst the wreckage of Just Go With It, Aniston and Sandler have a real chemistry. They should go elsewhere with it. D