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Just Go With It

February 13, 2011

Just Go With It presents us with a quandary. Adam Sandler’s body of work, by and large, consists of barely-mature dick-and-fart jokes stretching all the way back to Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, has a long string of decent if not always interesting romantic comedies under her belt. When you bring these two together, who will win? This being Hollywood, it should be no surprise that the man does.

Danny Maccabee (Sandler) is a misogynistic womanizer. Oh, I know that we go to great lengths to point out that his former fiancée was a shallow, heartless gold-digger using him for his prospective income as a cardiologist, but the fact remains that he has spent the last twenty years using a fake wedding band and fantastical stories about cheating, shrewish, abusive wives in order to con legions of young women into their beds. I understand being hurt, but after two decades it takes a particular kind of chauvinist to keep playing out the same revenge fantasies, and to come up with the lies so easily.

And but so Danny’s a wildly successful plastic surgeon — oh yeah, he changed his specialty in order to get rid of his giant stereotypically Jewish nose, though why he had to be a plastic surgeon to get plastic surgery is completely beyond me. Until one night at a party, he meets Palmer Dodge (Brooklyn Decker), a young, buxom teacher at a local private middle school. By chance he’s pocketed his fake ring, so she doesn’t find it until the next morning as she goes through the pockets of his pants on the beach where they evidently spent the night. Palmer’s parents had gone through a bad divorce, so she wants nothing to do with being the “other woman”.

Somehow, a single walk on the beach has completely changed Danny’s ways. He is now an absolutely terrible liar, with no ability to think on his feet at all. And somehow Palmer is just enough of a dumb broad to swallow even the most preposterously baroque fabrications, but not quite enough to not at least refuse to play the homewrecker role. For help, Danny turns to his office assistant, Katherine Murphy (Aniston), to play his soon-to-be-ex-wife.

One thing leads to another and the three of them are off to Hawaii, along with Katherine’s incredibly annoying kids (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) — complete with fake names Danny came up with while flailing with his lies — and Danny’s cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson) — playing Katherine’s new boyfriend Dolph Lundgren, but not that Dolph Lundgren. Hijinks, of course, ensue.

Look, I have nothing against farce, but it’s possible to have a farce without insulting all the characters and the audience to boot. At every turn, it chooses to pander to the lowest common denominator. Aniston does a good job in her now-familiar role as a woman remaining attractive and interesting — though a little unkempt and frumpy on the surface to start — into her forties. But at heart this is Sandler’s movie, not hers, and there’s only so much she can do with it.

I do, regrettably, have to withdraw some of my earlier comments: The Dilemma was evidently not an isolated off-note by Allan Loeb. And this is even more surprising since he wrote so well for Aniston in The Switch. It’s possible that most of the blame lays at the feet of Timothy Dowling, because even considering his recent history I have no idea how Loeb could so thoroughly mangle his source material.

Worth it: no.
Bechdel test: as much as I hate to admit it, I’m going to have to say it passes. Which only goes to show that passing the test does not automatically make a movie good, or even not-misogynist.

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