In 1998, news of an Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy might have had moviegoers choking on their Zimas with lusty anticipation. Now, it’s hard not to greet the news with a dubious eye roll. Both stars, while still arguably A-list, have weathered their share of critical flops (Aniston in particular seems unable to attach herself to a movie that doesn’t rate somewhere between embarrassing and meh), and each glossy rom-com churned out by a major studio these days seems airier and more generic than the last. Maybe my lowered expectations are to blame, but I’m happy to report that Just Go With It is not nearly as terrible as it could be given the circumstances. It is thoroughly mediocre, and even occasionally entertaining.
Sandler stars as Danny Maccabee, whom we first meet in flashback at his ’80s-era wedding. Wearing a white tuxedo and matching yarmulke, his face obscured by a comically huge nose, Danny overhears his bride-to-be (Sandler’s real-life wife, Jackie, in a cameo) recounting her sexual exploits to her ladies-in-waiting moments before the ceremony. Heartbroken, Danny calls off the wedding and decamps to a bar, where he discovers that his gold band—and a white lie about his philandering mate—will get him laid despite his physical shortcomings.
Flash-forward to 2011. Danny, whose face has been carved down to normal, gently schlubby Sandler proportions, is a successful plastic surgeon in L.A. who still uses his trusty wedding ring and spousal sob stories to bed much younger, hotter women. By day, with the help of his trusty assistant, Katherine (Aniston, whose tight, sloped face makes it look like Kathy’s been hitting the employee discounts a little too hard), he repairs bad brow-lifts and ruptured breast implants; by night, he schmoozes with leathery, silicone-filled Hollywood types. But then he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a gorgeous, saintly 6th-grade teacher who just happens to have a body to rival Bo Derek’s in 10. A romantic tryst on the beach is nearly ruined when Palmer finds Danny’s ring in his back pocket the next morning, but Danny quickly dreams up a lie: He’s in the midst of a painful divorce. When Palmer insists on meeting the soon-to-be-ex, Danny drafts Katherine to play Mrs. Maccabee, and a farce is born.
Just Go With It is clearly intended to be a zany screwball rom-com of errors, and if it misses the mark, it’s not for lack of trying; the script is packed with belabored twists. For starters, Danny names his fictional wife Devlin, after a former sorority sister that Katherine often complains about. Next, the lie grows with the addition of children—specifically, Katherine’s children from her failed marriage: Maggie (Bailee Madison), a chipmunk-faced actress-in-training who insists on speaking with a cockney accent at all times, and Michael (Griffin Gluck), a glum, sarcastic moppet who watches Californication and dreams of swimming with dolphins. Before you know it, the whole gang is on a flight to Hawaii, along with Danny’s boyhood friend Eddie (Nick Swardson), who’s pretending to be Katherine/Devlin’s fake Swedish lover/sheep seller. Palmer, of course, is dimly oblivious, seemingly thrilled to be going on vacation with her new boyfriend’s bizarre family and never once losing her Ivory Soap grin even when Katherine/Devlin complains about Danny’s supposed erectile dysfunction and irritable bowel syndrome.
In Hawaii, if you can believe it, the plot thickens! It turns out the real Devlin (Nicole Kidman) is staying at the same resort, along with her poseur husband, played to a douchey tee by Dave Matthews (wait, maybe it really is 1998). Not only that, but Danny is starting to cool on Palmer and fall for Katherine! There’s a love story buried under all of the farcical flotsam, and it’s actually kind of touching. Sandler and Aniston have real chemistry; it’s too bad so much screen time is devoted to the obnoxious supporting cast (Kidman is refreshingly unhinged as Aniston’s bitchy, competitive foil, but Swardson is ridiculous and insufferable,).
Just Go With It is not an especially good movie, but at least it’s superior to last year’s Cupid-baiting disaster Valentine’s Day. So if you don’t have anything else to do and want to kill two hours, and happen to find poop jokes and CPR performed on farm animals hilarious … well, the title says it all.