Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Just Go With It"

Last year, in my review of “Dinner for Schmucks,” I wrote about that rare occasion when I find myself nervously voicing my approval for a hated film. It really doesn’t happen often. I mean, sure, perhaps I give a film a “B+” when the general consensus is more in the “B” range or something similar. But rarely do the opinions of other smart movies goers differ significantly from my own. That’s kind of my bit, really. I write reviews for regular people who like movies. At least when it comes to mainstream releases, generally speaking, if I hate a movie, you will, too, and if I love it, chances are you’ll enjoy yourself as well. So it is with great trepidation that I step into the shark infested, chum-filled waters of a positive review for “Just Go With It.”

Adam Sandler plays Danny, a womanizing plastic surgeon who had his heart broken in the 80s and has never allowed himself to be put in that situation again. As a result, he uses a fake wedding ring as his prop for picking up women that are far out of his league. His assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), scoffs at his lifestyle but that doesn’t keep her from being his confidant. Danny’s walls are put to the test, however, when he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a young teacher (yeah, right) for whom he creates a fake ex-wife and kids. For the right price, Katherine and her children pose as the fake family. The shenanigans get even zanier when the whole troop, along with Danny’s cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson), heads out on a twisted family vacation to Hawaii, where a series of events cause Danny to question his life and his attachments to both Palmer and Katherine.

Going into “Just Go With It”, I was 99 percent ready to hate my life. If I hadn’t picked up complimentary screening passes, I wouldn’t have ventured into this movie in the first place. While I’ve been a lifelong fan of Sandler, last year’s “Grown Ups” made me actually want to die and forced me to consider the possibility that I’ve outgrown Sandler’s hijinks. Yet, as the opening moments of “Just Go” unfolded, I found myself legitimately laughing out loud more often than not. I was literally shocked. I laughed more and more as the film went along and actually had a moment where I turned to my wife to say, “This is funny, right?” The jokes are easy but plentiful and Sandler seems to actually work with the material rather than against it like he has in the recent past. Director Dennis Dugan, the Adam McKay to Sandler’s Will Ferrell, has punched me in the gut numerous times over the last decade but for once he seems to have learned from his failures. One of the things that made “Grown Ups” so incredibly painful were the overly-long scenes that crushed any form of momentum the movie might have had. Instead, what you get with “Just Go” are quick cuts that don’t allow you to focus on the ludicrousness of what you’ve just been presented with. As much as I usually hate a movie that jumps from scene to scene, it works well in this situation.

Now that isn’t to say this movie is without flaws. In fact, it’s riddled with them the way Jack Bauer’s SUV is almost always filled with bullet holes by the end of an episode of “24.” No one would ever make the decisions that these characters do, for one thing. For another, Brooklyn Decker, for all our physical attributes, is by no means an actor. She’s one of the worst fake-actors ever. Swardson also doesn’t add much to the equation. And the usual host of cameos that plague a Sandler/Dugan production fall short again here, most notably that of Nicole Kidman who seems completely lost and rigidly one dimensional. But the element that allowed me to overlook these extreme issues is the chemistry between Sandler and Aniston. Given how rarely these actors have delivered in the recent past, it was more than a bit surprising to see how well they complemented each other here and how relatively naturally their characters blend. I wouldn’t necessarily call it an organic pairing but it certainly isn’t forced which is exactly what I expected.

By no means do I feel that any of the life choices made in this film are reasonable, realistic, or even remotely possible. Any number of “plot twists” could have been avoided entirely by a single character simply saying, “Wait a minute, there is no way we’re doing that.” BAM! Movie over. But where’s the fun in that? And for that matter, how many of the great movies we’ve come to know and love could have been DOA if a character would have simply made the logical choice? Comedies, as a whole, are almost always predicated on an absurd action or behavior. So I chose to embrace the ridiculousness and my evening was much more fun than I could have ever predicted. Maybe the theater pumped weapons-grade laughing gas into the room (it was a screening, after all) and maybe any future viewings will make me race to my computer to change my review, but whatever the case may be, I laughed a lot. And that is, after all, the point of a comedy. So my apologies if this review leads any of you astray down a dark and dangerous path.

Grade: B

You may now begin lambasting me,

Care for another (possibly more sane) take on "Just Go With It?" Head on over to Cinema Slants.

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