Just Go With It

Just Go With It is kind of like what would happen if you combined The Brady Bunch’s Hawaiian episode with one of the first season installments of Who’s Line Is It Anyway? (the season before Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles showed up on the BBC’s stage to make the concept awesome). There’s a lot of romance and ridiculous going on in this movie but if you really boil it down to its most basic elements what it’s about is this: What if a bunch of normal people were forced to spend an entire vacation in Hawaii engaged in some sort of improv? They’d probably be forced to just go with it. Hey, there’s your title.

As a premise that’s a pretty weak idea and the excuse they come up with to make this Hawaiian farce happen is weaker still. Adam Sandler spends two hours with a girl on a beach. She mistakenly believes he’s married and so, to convince her that he isn’t, Sandler constructs an elaborate, multi-level, fake life involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures and at least half-a-dozen other people who agree to spend weeks playing unnecessarily ridiculous, improvised roles as part of his fake life for no reason at all. Yeah this doesn’t make much sense, unless of course you’re the blonde bimbo Sandler’s wooing with this mentally deficient scheme.

This woman, played by the cinematically curvaceous (and not particularly good at acting) Brooklyn Decker, is supposed to be a sixth grade teacher, yet she actually seems to totally believe that Nick Swardson is a German sheep shipper named Dolph Lundgren. Don’t teachers have to go to college and stuff? I guess not. Is the notion of Nick Swardson playing a guy pretending to be a German sheep shipper named Dolph Lundgren funny? Yes, he’s hilarious. Is this one of the worst plot ideas ever written down on a cocktail napkin by one of Adam Sandler’s booze-soaked buddies? Definitely. It’s more idiotic than Bedtime Stories.

The really shocking thing here is that even though this is the worst idea Adam Sandler has ever turned into a movie, it’s not actually his idea, it’s based on a French play. Maybe I expect too much from the French (it’s probably the accent) but that movie where Adam Sandler rewound David Hassellhoff using his TV remote actually made a lot more sense than this as a premise. I can buy into a drunk guy hallucinating amorous penguins, but I find it vaguely insulting that we’re actually supposed to accept this many people acting this stupidly. Or maybe it’s not so much the premise as the way it’s presented. A plot this ridiculous and over the top belongs in a movie that’s equally ridiculous and over the top. This is the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons but, director Dennis Dugan lets it play out as though he’s making 50 First Dates. He isn’t. Peter Segal directed that one and maybe that’s why it, not this, is one of Sandler’s best movies.

The entire cast plays it straight, as if they’re real people doing real things, and they expect us to accept them as actual individuals living in reality instead of a cartoon. This isn’t that movie. You’ll feel bad for Jennifer Aniston, who has for some reason decided this is the one movie this decade where she’ll attempt to play someone other than Jennifer Aniston. Granted she only manages it for half a film, at some point she has to strut around in a bikini and go back to being Jennifer Aniston, but for at least half the movie she seems more like the Jennifer Aniston who looked like maybe she could play interesting characters in The Good Girl, before she went back to making movies like The Bounty Hunter.

I don’t know what the process was to make this movie or how much time was actually spent coming up with it, but Just Go With It feels like Sandler and Dugan doing something which they know will be an easy paycheck. The little girl actress they cast to play Aniston’s daughter in the film is “Bailee Madison”, does anyone really believe they hired her because she might be good for their movie and not because her name sounds like the title of Sandler’s first film? There’s no way they took any of this seriously.

Just Go With It feels like a movie made mainly to entertain and enrich the guys who made it, with a free trip to Hawaii and scenes constructed in a way which require almost no real effort from its star. Aniston may be standing there acting her ass off, and a blinded Swardson at one point literally throws himself on a sheep, but most of the time Sandler’s contribution is to hang out in a corner behind them, snickering at whatever happens to be going on. I’m saying this with love Adam. I’m a huge fan. I unabashedly love at least 50% of your movies. I even liked You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Whether other people liked it or not, at least with that movie you really seemed to try. Lately though, after Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups, and now Just Go With It you don’t seem to be putting much effort into this shit.

Adam Sandler movies work best when they find one of two levels: Raunchy or sweet. Happy Gilmore is raunchy, hilarious, and filled with rage. The Wedding Singer is delicate and sweet and romantic and all the other things which have made some of Sandler’s movies, his best movies, great. Just Go With It is too watered down to be raunchy or angry and its premise is far too cartoonish and silly ever to tug at anyone’s heart strings. It contains laughs, a few moments here and there which really do seem to work. Yet, this is a movie which doesn’t care enough about any of its characters to show what happens to them. It just sort of stops after this half-hearted narration which tells you they all lived happily ever after for no reason at all. I mean, actually shooting all that stuff would be effort. They might have had to film some of those scenes in a place that didn’t serve non-stop Mai Tais. Sure, even sitting in a corner doing nothing, Sandler is sort of charming and Nick Swardson is genuinely hilarious (and underrated); but the movie spends too long limping around in a middle ground where it doesn’t try and doesn’t seem to care whether it creates anything worth spending time with.

Josh Tyler