February 11, 2011 in Features

‘Just Go With It’ forces audiences to do just that

Robert W. Butler Kansas City Star

Jennifer Aniston, left, and Adam Sandler star in “Just Go with It.”
(Full-size photo)

“Just Go With It” was probably fun to make: Handsome, funny people. A Hawaiian setting.

Unfortunately, it’s painful to watch.

Now that he’s too old to keep playing the angry man-boy, 44-year-old Adam Sandler is casting about for projects that will allow him to adapt his shtick to more adult stories. Good luck with that.

In “Just Go With It” he plays Danny Maccabee, a Hollywood plastic surgeon who, while unmarried, has for years gone out on the town with a fake wedding ring. That, combined with a sob story about an abusive (and imaginary wife), lands him all the no-strings one-night stands he could ever want.

But when he falls for 20-something Palmer (swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker), the good doctor is in a predicament: She wants to meet the wife Danny says he’s divorcing.

So he talks his office assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) into impersonating his high-maintenance spouse. And before long the big fib has expanded, and Katherine’s two children (Bailee Madison, Griffin Gluck) are sucked into the act to pose as their offspring.

It all culminates with a mixed family trip to Hawaii. Along for the ride is Danny’s infantile brother (Nick Swardson), who talks in a fake German accent.

It’s a high-tension vacation in which Danny and Katherine must keep inventing lies about their nonexistent marriage.

In the right hands it might have had the makings of an OK farce. But Dennis Dugan – Sandler’s go-to director for the likes of “Happy Gilmore,” “Big Daddy” and, most recently, “Grown Ups” – does not have the right hands.

All concerned may have been going for an impromptu, laid-back feel, but what we get is lazy moviemaking: unstructured, clumsy, lacking in forward momentum or even tension within individual scenes.

Nothing about “Just Go With It” works. The kids are meant to be cute and precocious but come off as merely obnoxious. Ditto for Swardson’s irritating sibling.

And what the heck is Nicole Kidman doing here playing Katherine’s icky college nemesis? (The academy won’t retroactively take back an Oscar, will it?)

Poop and crotch jokes (even some breast-surgery-gone-bad sight gags) are scattered randomly throughout. It’s as if Sandler realized that none of this was working and in desperation fell back into his old habits.

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