There’s a difference between a movie that features dumb characters and a dumb movie, and you can see that distinction firsthand in Just Go With It, which begins the former and, about halfway through, becomes the latter. Both halves are maddening in different ways: the first in how unlikely and illogical character decisions are, and the second in how monotonous the lack of jokes and predictable romantic comedy formula are.

It all begins with Danny (Adam Sandler), a pathological liar and plastic surgeon who pretends to be married in order to sleep with attractive women. Don’t question it. His behavior is justified, according to Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling’s screenplay (based, the credits state in a desperate grasp of acquiring some sort of legitimacy, on a trio of sources, including the 1969 movie Cactus Flower), by the fact his fiancée cheated on him twenty years ago. He also had a bulbous nose that pulls focus from whatever emotional impact the scene is meant to have in the same way Sandler’s reliance on goofy voices keeps him distant from the material.

Such sociopathic activities (they come across that way particularly, again, because of Sandler’s detached performance) are fine in his eyes because he doesn’t want to be hurt again, and even his divorced, mother-of-two, plain (shock alert: she’s really not) assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), just shrugs it off as good old Danny boy’s silliness (a day at the office typically includes mocking his patients, usually victims of plastic surgery mishaps). Then Danny meets the twenty-years-younger Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) at a party, spends a night with her on the beach, and realizes all of his womanizing has been useless: He thinks there might be a future with this one. Don’t ask why.

Then she stumbles across the wedding ring he uses to pick up women, and thus begins the series of fabrications that make up the second act. See, he still doesn’t think honesty is the best policy here, since it might mean revealing details of his life that make him appear to be the manipulative cad he is. So he asks Katherine to be his wife. What happens if Palmer sees that his fake wife is actually Danny’s receptionist in the future? Don’t bother with those kinds of details.

It’s all going fine, and Danny even begins to notice that his ordinary receptionist can look stylish and turn heads with a makeover and new wardrobe. Then it keeps escalating to the point that Danny must pretend Katherine’s children, a precocious girl (Bailee Madison) with aspirations for acting and a sad boy (Griffin Gluck) who spends a lot of time on the toilet (seriously), are his, too, and that his cousin, Eddie (Nick Swardson), is actually Katherine’s boyfriend, a different guy named “Dolph Lundgren.”

The continual, pointless complications take a pause for a scene change, wherein everyone takes a trip to Hawaii. There, the script becomes even duller, as Danny and Katherine start to realize they might have something more than an amiable professional relationship and exchange increasingly longer looks, pretend they’re married so Katherine can impress a former college classmate (Nicole Kidman, owing someone a favor or losing a bet), and get into a game where they have to tell the other what they love about him/her (“I don’t have to lie to you” really shouldn’t sweep a woman off her feet as much as it does here).

The barely existent jokes range from an awkward Hurricane Katrina reference to Danny falling on his testicles while crossing a rickety bridge — from toilet humor (e.g., the son sitting on Eddie’s hand while using the commode, an extended riff on irritable bowel syndrome) to dry-humping an unsuspecting woman (after performing the Heimlich maneuver on a sheep, and there’s really no reason at all to wonder how on Earth anyone thought either of those would work). Things become unavoidably maudlin on cue, as the kids have faux-father/faux-child bonding time with Danny and he and Katherine spend a sleepless night wondering about the other’s feelings without bothering to ask. The resolution, in which Danny just appears next to the woman he’ll end up with, is a new definition for anticlimactic.

In between the painful attempts at humor and the obnoxious conventions, Just Go With It spends its time literally navel-gazing as Aniston, Kidman, and especially Decker wear bikinis and hula outfits in shots from the midsection up. It’s something, I suppose.

Mark Dujsik is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. For more of his reviews, visit his website.

Comments (1)

On March 1, 2011 at 7:33 PM, erica wrote...

shut up. i loved this film



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