With Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nicole Kidman, Nick Swardson. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language. 116 minutes.
If you study the credits carefully for JUST GO WITH IT, you may be surprised. It’s based on a screenplay by I.A.L. Diamond, who collaborated on with Billy Wilder on “Some Like It Hot” and “The Apartment” and a play by Abe Burrows, whose credits include “Guys And Dolls” and “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.” How can that be? How can a film with a pedigree like that be so unutterably awful?
It turns out this is a remake – a very, very loosely inspired remake – of “Cactus Flower,” which Diamond based on the Burrows play, and which starred Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn. In having new writers update it, and bringing in Adam Sandler’s favorite hack director Dennis Dugan (“Big Daddy,” “Grown Ups”), the perpetrators of this film have squandered an opportunity. Instead of getting Sandler to adapt to the material, they adapted the material to Sandler. The result is exactly the sort of juvenile exercise one has come to expect from him.
Sandler is Danny, a prominent plastic surgeon who learned on his wedding day that his bride to be was merely using him and preferred another. In an overlong prologue, we learn that Danny finds that wearing the wedding ring for the marriage that wasn’t turns out to be a magnet for a certain type of woman. He complains about his imaginary wife and leads the life of a playboy. One day he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) and he’s in love, but then she finds the ring and thinks he’s a philanderer. So he asks his office manager Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) to pretend to be his soon-to-be ex-wife.
After this laborious set up, the remainder of the movie consists of the increasingly involved lies that Danny employs so that Palmer will think Danny’s “marriage” to Katherine is over. This involves her obnoxious kids, a trip to Hawaii, and the pretense that his moronic friend Eddie (Nick Swardson) is actually a German sheep broker involved with Katherine. For nearly two hours, the lies get more and more complicated until – inevitably – the truth comes out. No fair guessing who Danny is really fated to marry.
The humor is Sandler’s patented brand of bodily function humor. There’s two blows to the crotch, numerous poop jokes (including Eddie falling asleep with his hand in the toilet), and an embarrassing turn by Nicole Kidman as Katherine’s college rival whom they run into in Hawaii. The usually adroit Kidman is so cartoonish that one can imagine her ex-husband Tom Cruise screening this film to show why their marriage ended.
The irony is that if they had gone smart rather than dumb – in other words, stuck with Diamond and Burrows rather than Sandler and Dugan – they just might have had something here. Not since his movies with Drew Barrymore has Sandler had a female co-star who is his match. Aniston is smart and feisty and deserves much better than this. They have an interesting chemistry that might have been better explored. As for Brooklyn Decker, she is exactly what she appears to be: a luscious model attempting to forge an acting career. Perhaps she will succeed, but at this point she’s closer to Kathy Ireland than to Meryl Streep.
In spite of the title you will not want to “Just Go With It.” You will want to avoid it like the plague.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.