Friday, February 11, 2011

Film review: 'Just Go With It' has eye candy, but little else, to offer

Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in Just Go With It.

By John Thomason

Like Tracy and Hepburn,‭ ‬or Charlie Sheen and blow,‭ ‬Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are the most unsurprising of pairings.

They are the master and mistress of middlebrow mirth,‭ ‬for whom the three-star review is an unattainable plateau.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬it’s hard to believe these two forces of rom-com mediocrity haven’t met-cute over some‭ ‬15‭ ‬years of shepherding penis jokes and treacle into our multiplexes.‭ ‬In‭ ‬Just Go With It,‭ ‬the stars finally align,‭ ‬and the result is like watching Frazier and Ali‭ … ‬synchronized swimming.

To be fair,‭ ‬Sandler and Aniston are both perfectly acceptable in this thing,‭ ‬in the same way a machinist is acceptable at snapping together widgets on an assembly line.‭ ‬At no point does either actor challenge him or herself‭; ‬preparation might have consisted of watching tapes of their old schticks and imitating them.

Their performances are effortlessly banal,‭ ‬and their characters are inexorably shopworn:‭ ‬He plays plastic surgeon Danny,‭ ‬yet another commitment-fearing Sandlerian man-child who exploits a wedding band from a previous botched marriage to lure gullible hotties into one-night stands.‭ ‬She plays Katherine,‭ ‬Danny’s‭ “‬homely‭” ‬personal assistant,‭ ‬apparently desexified with librarian glasses.

When Danny’s latest sexual conquest‭ (‬supermodel Brooklyn Decker,‭ ‬a Barbie doll with a name like a New York sub shop‭) ‬becomes something more,‭ ‬he needs to realize his mountain of lies to keep her.‭ ‬Katherine and her two kids thus become Danny’s temporary ex-wife and children,‭ ‬all of whom end up joining Danny and his buxom bimbo on a Hawaiian sojourn.

The plot becomes a succession of ludicrous,‭ ‬uncomfortable comic set pieces,‭ ‬each one more implausible than the next‭ (‬including a scene pilfered from‭ ‬Charade,‭ ‬in which the two leads having to move a coconut up their bodies without using their hands‭)‬,‭ ‬and we wait with impatience for Sandler and Aniston’s inevitable arc toward‭ ‬real‭ ‬love.

The filmmaker is Dennis Dugan‭ (‬Grown Ups,‭ ‬I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry‭)‬,‭ ‬a sixtysomething director-for-hire with the sense of humor of hormone-driven‭ ‬14-year-old boy.‭ ‬Once again,‭ ‬he looks squarely at depth and maturity and proceeds to kick them both in the balls.‭ ‬Most of the juvenile humor in‭ ‬Just Go With It involves either emasculation‭ ‬--‭ ‬testicular harm,‭ ‬erectile dysfunction and secretly gay macho men all rear their clichéd heads‭ – ‬or scatological cheap shots.

Example:‭ ‬Nicole Kidman adds some class to the picture as the nemesis from Katherine’s old sorority,‭ ‬even though her name in the movie,‭ ‬Devlin,‭ ‬has been established as a synonym for excrement in Katherine’s poop-happy family.‭ ‬Her son Michael’s‭ (‬Griffin Gluck‭) ‬only apparent personality trait is that‭ ‬he‭ ‬defecates a lot.

Dugan adds some strange spices to his puerile cauldron,‭ ‬with Dave Matthews,‭ ‬Kevin Nealon,‭ ‬Rachel Dratch and sportscaster Dan Patrick‭ (‬why‭?) ‬peaking nominal interest while they’re on-screen.‭ ‬Nick Swardson,‭ ‬a genuinely funny character actor,‭ ‬is saddled here with the thankless Rob Schneider role of the buffoonish sidekick.‭ ‬For Danny’s invented life,‭ ‬Swardson pretends to be a Eurotrash Internet sheep salesman wearing mad-scientist spectacles.‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬unfortunately,‭ ‬you read that right.

There are three or four actual chuckles in‭ ‬Just Go With It,‭ ‬a couple of minutes‭’ ‬worth of material aimed at thinking adults.‭ ‬The rest is strictly ear and eye candy for pubescent males.‭ ‬Say what you want about Dugan,‭ ‬but he really knows how to make boobs jiggle.

JUST GO WITH IT.‭ ‬Distributor:‭ ‬Sony‭; ‬Director:‭ ‬Dennis Dugan‭; ‬Cast:‭ ‬Adam Sandler,‭ ‬Jennifer Aniston,‭ ‬Nicole Kidman,‭ ‬Nick Swardson,‭ ‬Brooklyn Decker,‭ ‬Dave Matthews‭; ‬Rating:‭ ‬PG-13‭; ‬Opens:‭ ‬Today‭

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