Is anyone else as baffled by the career of Adam Sandler as I am? At times, he can be sensitive, self-effacing, even chivalrous. Other times, he can be mean-spirited, arrogant, and misogynistic. (Not to mention strangely violent.)
I’ve loved him in films like Funny People and Reign Over Me, and both his rom-coms with Drew Barrymore (50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer.) But I’ve hated—hated—his work in Grown-Ups, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Waterboy, and The Longest Yard.
Both sides of the Sandler persona are in full effect in the wildly uneven Just Go With It.
He plays Danny, a plastic surgeon who wears a wedding ring to bars so he can tell sob stories about an abusive, uncaring spouse and have sympathy sex, with no strings attached. But when he falls for the beautiful, way-too-young-for-him Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), he needs to explain the ring away, so he tells her that he was married, but he’s about to get divorced.
Enter Danny’s down-to-earth, single mom medical assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) who reluctantly agrees to play the role of his ex-wife. The presence of her two young children complicates matters, especially when they all take a “family” trip to Hawaii.
Will Danny end up with the perfect-10 Palmer or realize that the perfect-for-him Katherine has been there all along? (It’s all such a mystery!)
True to form, there are parts of Just Go With It that are almost unbearably sexist—and classist, too. Two lower income babysitters—one Hispanic, the other Hawaiian—are depicted as lazy and incompetent (one falls asleep on the couch with potato chips stuck to her mouth; the other ignores the kids and fiddles with her PlayStation). The rest of the women in the film are displayed as objects—either hot bods to be ogled at, or old or flabby bods to be ridiculed.
There are scenes of patented Sandler violence, such as when Danny knocks Katherine over (she’s teetering in high heels) and kicks her swiftly under the table. In another scene, he fakes an embrace with his two pretend children for Palmer’s benefit and then hurls them off him onto the couch.
Also, because these films always require such a character, Danny has a horndog, loser cousin (Nick Swarsdon) who comes along on the trip. (Unfunny scene alert: He performs the Heimlich maneuver on an ailing sheep.)
And yet, there is fun to be had. Nicole Kidman shows up as Katherine’s old college nemesis, Devlin. She’s brittlely funny as a grown-up Mean Girl, recalling her excellent work in the classic To Die For. (A game Dave Matthews plays her suspiciously doting husband).
But if there’s one thing that makes me almost recommend this film, it’s the chemistry between Aniston and Sandler. A scene where Danny and Katherine realize they’re in love is genuinely sweet; the following scene, where they consider a kiss in front of his hotel room door, is actually sexy. Aniston hasn’t been this relatable or appealing since, well, Friends.
Too bad Sandler can’t use his powers entirely for good. Instead, he gives us this mixed bag and urges us, as usual, to follow the directive of its title.