Oh how the “mighty” have fallen. I remember there used to be a time (the ’90s) when it seemed that some of the funniest movies happened to feature a certain Saturday Night Live alum. That man was Adam Sandler. He was the reigning king of comedy from his headlining debut Billy Madison he walked me through the shallows of guilty laughs. From then on he brought us a string of hits including my favorites – Happy Gilmore (still his funniest), The Wedding Singer (his sweetest) and Punch-Drunk Love (ultimately his best). The streak has been broken and continued to clang along as he bombards us with his latest vacation reel, Just Go With It.
Sandler can really make his performances work when he’s got decent material and a director to keep him reigned in or at least a director who knows how to make a joke work. Dennis Dugan, please send in your Hollywood resignation ASAP, I can take no more. The jig is up, you are no director. You are the man assigned to hold Sandler’s camera on said vacations. Just because you and the rest of the Happy Madison cronies decided you wanted to go on vacation in Hawaii does not mean you should tarnish the memories of what used to be Cactus Flower. Originally a stage play then the film starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn, now we get Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, two obnoxious child actors (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) and the two saving graces of the film Brooklyn Decker and Nick Swardson. Decker shows some surprising charm amidst the clowns while Swardson can make administering CPR to a sheep even mildly amusing.
In Just Go With It, we meet Danny (Sandler) who has just overheard that his fiancé has been cheating on him. Instead of getting married he winds up at a bar where he uses the power of the lie and his wedding band to get him laid. Thinking he’s come up with the greatest scheme ever he delves into a life of no responsibility and winds up one of Beverly Hills’ best plastic surgeons. How he managed to pull this off is beyond me as all of his patients belong in SNL Halloween sketches.
Pressing onward, Danny meets Palmer (Decker) at a party and they have sex on the beach. She tells him she can tell when he’s lying and when he’s not but all of this is laid mute when she finds his wedding band in his pants pockets. To add insult to injury he explains (i.e. lies) to Palmer that he’s getting divorced but of course she wants to meet his soon-to-be ex-wife for proof. Soon enough, Danny ropes in his office admin Katherine (Aniston) and eventually her two kids Maggie and Michael (Madison and Gluck). Through even more lies and miscommunication this side of the worst sitcom pilots (complete with a live audience as the crowd I saw was dumb enough to eat it all up), the group flies off to Hawaii so Danny can keep his promise to Michael for him to swim with dolphins thankfully with his cousin Eddie (Swardson) in tow.
If you thought Dugan was inept after the recent failures that were Grown Ups, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, The Benchwarmers and National Security, he seems to be in a holding pattern of “devlin.” (This is what Katherine has taught her kids to say instead of using the word “shit.”) With Just Go with It, this is definitely his least offensive affair in the last eight years but now we get a double whammy when him Sandler unleash Jack and Jill upon us sometime later this year. Here’s a film that plays it so safe that there’s absolutely no consequences whatsoever and the finale seems to have involved the writing committee sitting around seeing who can hit the Staples button first.
Finally, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if a real director (Judd Apatow, James L. Brooks or hell, maybe even Paul Thomas Anderson) stepped in behind the camera on one of these Happy Madison productions and see what happens. The mess of a script from The Dilemma’s Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling was probably puked on and rewritten by every cast member or left open to interpretation via improv as proven by one scene where Sandler and Aniston prove just how little chemistry they really have in a hallway where it feels like eternity before the banter finally breaks. However, we’ll never get to see the outcome of such an idea as Sandler continues to play the box office safe and continues to provide job security for all of his friends while we foot the bill. It just wouldn’t be February without it.
Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures