The Good: Moments of fun, Good beginning and end, Moments of acting.
The Bad: Very weak middle, Predictable plot, Much of the acting
The Basics: For all the hype, Just Go With It is an awkward mix of predictable, cluttered and delightfully surprising.
Lately, I've been catching up on movies I missed in their theatrical release that I think my wife or I might like. Last night, that took the form of us getting in the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It, which both of us had heard very good things about. While my wife is a big fan of Adam Sandler's works, I've enjoyed many of Jennifer Aniston's works more. Even when Aniston is in a movie that does not wow me as much, she tends to illustrate fairly impressive range, as she did in Horrible Bosses (reviewed here!). So, I was not unenthusiastic about watching Just Go With It.
To be fair to Just Go With It, the movie starts well enough. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how fast it got to its own point. In that way, Just Go With It is a very direct movie. And it lands the ending. Just Go With It arrives at a sensible, if obvious, conclusion where one feels like the characters have reached an end that is fairly fulfilling. But in between, Just Go With It is a convoluted farce that is just a mess. I love Frasier (reviewed here!) and when the show started doing farce episodes, it was a real treat. They were funny, clever and oftentimes some of the most memorable episodes of the series. But they also were not protracted and Just Go With It is. Dragging the farcical elements out makes Just Go With It tedious and surprisingly not funny in the middle portion of the movie.
Danny Maccabee is heartbroken when, on the eve of his wedding, he discovers his fiance has been cheating on him and does not truly think much of him. Ditching her, he gets plastic surgery to correct his nose and he discovers there is an entire class of young, datable women who go for married guys. So, he trolls for women by going to bars, wearing his wedding ring and letting himself get picked up by one night stands. For almost twenty years, he does this while he watches his assistant, Katherine, deal with divorce and children. But one night, Danny goes to a party and without trying finds himself in an engaging conversation with a woman, Palmer. The two hit it off, spend the night together talking on the beach and it looks like they have all the elements for a substantial relationship.
Unfortunately for Danny, when he suggests Palmer take one of his business cards for his phone number, Palmer discovers the fake wedding ring in his pocket. When Palmer storms off, Danny laments to Katherine how he thinks he has blown something that could actually be wonderful. In conversing with Katherine, Danny decides that the way out of the situation is to lie to Palmer about how he and his wife are getting a divorce. That ruse comes close to working . . . until Palmer insists on meeting Danny's soon to be ex-wife. Danny has Katherine impersonate his wife, which she does in exchange for a pretty fabulous shopping spree, and the arrangement goes off without a hitch until Katherine takes a call from the babysitting and Danny is forced to lie about having children! Things spiral out of control for Danny and his lies when, during a meeting between the kids and Palmer, Katherine's son, Michael, manipulates Palmer and Danny into a Hawaiian vacation. Forced together on vacation, Danny tries to keep all of his lies from unraveling and Palmer in love with him while circumstances out of his control pull him in supposedly unexpected directions.
One of the main problems with Just Go With It is that, because it is working in a film comedy medium where virtually everything has to be squeezed into the (in this case) two hour running time, certain elements quickly become obvious to a seasoned moviegoer. As the film turns toward being a farce - arguably the moment that Danny's brother Eddie, as Dolph the man Katherine (as Devlin) allegedly had an affair with, in effect ruining the Danny/Devlin marriage - it becomes obvious that writers Allan Loeb, Timothy Dowling and I.A.L. Diamond are going with a very traditional mentality of the farce. To me, that meant that every lie would become much more complicated through the addition of more information that has the potential to complicate a lie already in play. So, for example, when Katherine tells the story about Devlin and Danny uses the name Devlin for his soon-to-be-ex-wife, I knew it was a waiting game for the actual Devlin to enter the movie. And, in Hawaii, there she is! The "magic" of the farce is in seeing how the convoluted lies are maintained or how they all fall apart. In the case of Just Go With It, there is an amusing moment when "Dolph" throws Palmer in the water to prevent her from outing "Devlin" to Devlin, but after the initial shock and humor, the scene become uncomfortable and unfunny as Dolph almost drowns Palmer!
The formulaic elements are not limited to the farce elements in Just Go With It, either. The moment Danny begins illustrating any real empathy for Katherine's children, Just Go With It becomes a weird character trivia formula story. In other words, every randomly mentioned factoid about the peripheral characters comes into play as a chance for the main protagonists to grow. So, when "Bart" (Michael's assumed identity for his interactions with Palmer) mentions that he is sad because his father is never around and that he does not know how to swim, Katherine gets a chance to be wowed by Danny actually bonding with the kids and teaching Michael to swim.
Despite the predictability and moments when Adam Sandler is recycling his performances from prior works - we get that his schtick is that high-pitched mumbling thing, but performances like in Punch-Drunk Love illustrate that he actually has exceptional range - Just Go With It actually does have some very positive elements. The opening to Just Go With It is very funny and the end has charm coming out of all orifices. The middle - especially the parts with Nicole Kidman as Devlin and a disturbingly bland Dave Matthews - go for more obvious jokes and linger annoyingly long on Eddie, Palmer's body and setting up less successful jokes that are played out in the end. Added to that, Just Go With It has one of the best flirtation scenes I have ever seen in all of film. In that scene, set in a hotel hallway, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler deliver some great dialogue in the most convincing performances I have seen from either in quite some time. I would be even more impressed were I to learn that they actually could not stand one another, the chemistry was just that good!
Jennifer Aniston and the absolutely ridiculous Bailee Madison are the shining stars of Just Go With It. Madison, who plays Katherine's daughter Maggie (Kiki D in the deceptions), is incredibly good with the cockney accent and, to her credit, she never slips from it at any inappropriate time, putting to shame many actresses who do work with accents! While not much humor is put on her plate to dispense, she gives a decent performance. Similarly, Jennifer Aniston convincingly plays a hard-working assistant who develops through the course of the film to a reasonable epiphany. Her character does not simply feel like a reworking of Rachel or her Love Happens protagonist. Instead, Just Go With It gives her a chance to have fun and create a viable parent character put in a ridiculous situation.
Ultimately, Just Go With It had moments of amusement, but the middle was too chaotic, predictable and just not funny for me to recommend.
For other works with Nick Swardson, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Jack And Jill
30 Minutes Or Less
For other movies, check out my organized listing on the Movie Review Index Page!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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