I have to concede, I think Adam Sandler is sort of struggling through something a transitional stage of his career. We’re past the point where Sandler can so easily play the angry young man who defined films like Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy, so we’re faced with an actor trying reconcile himself with that fact. Now, it seems the actor is preoccupied with the idea of finally growing up – as we see in films like Grown Ups and Just Go With It. The problem is that Sandler isn’t nearly as convincing or as interesting as a mellowing out man instead of an acting-out manchild.
Just Go With It has an almost delightfully absurd premise. Adam Sandler uses his wedding ring from his aborted almost-marriage as a way of tricking beautiful women into going to bed with him. When his latest beautiful young companion discovers the wedding ring in his trousers, she has a miniature freak-out. Rather than dealing with the situation like a mature adult, or even crafting a believable white lie, he suddenly creates a massive fake life that involves his assistant, played by Jennifer Aniston, masquerading as his soon-to-be ex-wife. And hilarity ensues. Or, at least, that’s the premise.
Credit where credit’s due – there are some laughs to be had. There aren’t nearly enough to sustain the extended near two-hour runtime, but it’s generally inoffensive and perhaps a lot more efficient than some of Sandler’s more recent efforts. While it never quite reaches the sophomoric highs of his earlier work, the movie isn’t the weakest link in the filmography. However, and here’s the kicker, Sandler himself is the weakest link in this particular film.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who believes Sandler lacks dramatic talent. While he isn’t quite as effective a dramatic actor as Jim Carrey, Sandler has repeatedly demonstrated that he has the chops. Punch Drunk Love is perhaps the best example of his skills, but I’d argue that The Wedding Singer qualifies as well. Hell, even his turn in Funny People was pretty decent, hampered by the indulgent and excessive movie around it.
The problem is that Sandler doesn’t seem to be trying here. He never goes “full throttle” on his loud-mouthed offensive humour, instead trying to portray plastic surgeon Danny Maccabee as a realistic character, an adult maturing and growing. Despite his tough and mocking exterior, we’re assured he has a “heart of gold”, and we’re treated to various shots of Danny being good with the kids, demonstrating that he would be perfect husband material if he hadn’t been fatefully burned that one time. There’s a sense that we’re supposed to be more sympathetic towards Danny than towards most of Sandler’s other creations, and that creates a problem – because, while Sandler won’t do anything to potentially alienate his audience, he does little to interest them.
We’re shown he’s good with kids, but the movie never seems too bothered with Danny’s attitude towards women. With Danny seducing a young woman and playing a happily married husband to his assistant, it’s inevitable that one of these characters will have their heart broken by him – such is the nature of the romantic comedy. However, her happiness is addressed as a casual throw-away footnote in Danny’s closing monologue, rather than something that happens organically. It’s a nugget thrown to the audience so we don’t think too much about how horrible Danny has treated her.
Instead, we’re meant to feel sorry for him, but Sandler can’t seem to be bothered to instill the character with a sense of pathos. Delivering the grand opening monologue, he sounds like he’s reading cue cards without a hint of passion. Save for an out-dated Gollum impression, which just ends up feeling slightly surreal given the attempt to craft depth for the character. Discussing the ring, he explains, “Sometimes I think about just throwing it in the sea, but I can’t. It’s my precious.”He totally puts the emphasis on the wrong part of that statement, and it’s indicative of the problem with Sandler’s performance.
The problem is that this leaves the rest of the cast to pick up the slack left by Sandler. Jennifer Aniston does a pretty solid job, even though she occasionally looks a little embarrassed to be there. Nicole Kidman makes the most out of a small celebrity supporting role, paving the way for Al Pacino’s involvement in Jack & Jill. Nick Swardson actually does a fairly decent job, despite the fact he spends most of the movie talking in a silly Eurotrash accent. Nobody involved with the film is going to be proud of their work here, but there’s nothing too shameful here. The cast does manage to wring a few jokes from the material, even if it’s not enough for a two-hour film.
Of course, the film is somewhat hamfisted in its approach to humour. I have no problem with stupid and immature gags, but the film seems to treat its audience like idiots. Never mind the sexist connotations to the fact that Danny only starts noticing his assistant when she strips down to a bikini, the movie doesn’t need slow motion and blaring music to convince us that, yes, Jennifer Aniston looks good in a bikini. When Adam Sandler’s character suffers an injury to his groin, we don’t need several establishing shots of other characters laughing to let us know that it’s funny. We get it – the film is only a few inches away from adding a laugh track.
On the other hand, the location work looks lovely and the soundtrack has a nice “retro” vibe going for it. I like the sort of Sting-related theme that runs through the choice of songs played over the course of the movie. More than that, Aniston has gotten to the stage where she can play a character like this in her sleep.
Just Go With It isn’t the worst film Adam Sandler has appeared in lately. But that’s damning with faint praise.
Filed under: Non-Review Reviews Tagged: | adam sandler, big daddy, Billy Madison, Candy Land, candyland, film, Gilmore, grown ups, happy gilmore, jennifer aniston, jim carrey, Just Go with It, nicole kidman, non-review review, Punch Drunk Love, review, Sandler, Saturday Night Live