Movie review: 'Just Go With It'

The best thing about the new Adam Sandler comedy "Just Go With It" (I'm assuming "Just Bear With Me" was already taken) is Rachel. And by that I mean Jennifer Aniston, playing a slight variation of the pretty, pragmatic waitress with great hair and even better comic timing whom America (or large parts of it) fell in love with over the 10-year run of "Friends."

In "Just Go With It," whose title really has to be read as a plea from the filmmakers, given all the leaps of faith they want you to take with a movie that's really more like a loose improv session, or an extended party game — oh wait, what was I saying…

Aniston plays Katherine, a single mom working as an assistant to Sandler's successful plastic surgeon, and she's got the frumpy wardrobe to prove it. If you're inclined to buy the premise, the way for a nerdy guy to bed an endless succession of great-looking chicks is to pretend he's married. I gather it's all part of the feminine mystique as defined by boobs (as in boys, not breasts) that a wedding ring and a bad marriage are the ultimate aphrodisiac. Right.

Anyway, Dr. Danny has finally met a gorgeous girl (Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Brooklyn Decker) who likes him even without the wedding ring. Since he really likes this girl back, when she discovers his fake gold band and declares she won't date a married man, he undertakes a cover-up of Watergate proportions to try to keep her. The plan involves getting Katherine to pose as his wife, conscripting her kids, concocting a divorce, funding a "Pretty Woman" makeover and before you can say, "Huh?" the new girlfriend, the fake ex, the fake kids and the fake ex's fake flame (Nick Swardson) are off to Hawaii to swim with dolphins. Don't ask.

The whole idea somehow seemed more plausible in 1969 when the screen version of "Cactus Flower" was first trotted out, winning Goldie Hawn an Oscar for her turn as the girlfriend. It was based on the Tony-winning stage play, which itself was based on the French stage play, which makes sense. After all, if anyone knows what to do with a sexy farce it's the French.

Still, the movie is a good fit for Aniston. One of her gifts, which director Dennis Dugan, a long-time Sandler collaborator, exploits in a good way is her ability to look as believable in a shapeless, off-the-rack shift and sandals as in a body-hugging, off-the-shoulder mini and stilettos. But — and this is the big one that most of Hollywood doesn't get since they keep casting her in one failed romantic comedy after another — he also understands that while she's hot, she's not smokin' hot, as in mouth-drooling, pulse-racing, temperature-raising hot. Her on-screen kisses and clinches are more sisterly and sincere than sexy. Maybe she's a slow burner, but at least on screen, no one has figured out yet how to light that fire.

All of those girl-next-door, punch-you-in-the-arm-if-she-likes-you qualities make a good comic match for Sandler, though, who's got the whole not-sexy thing going too. His nerdy naughty-but-nice persona has proved appealing to males and females alike, and coupled with his mumble-funny self-deprecating patter, it has made him a box-office billionaire ($3 billion and counting), which means Hollywood will let him do whatever he wants. And that is what happens here.

There's not much to say about Dugan's directing; even he admits in the production notes that his main job is to let Sandler be Sandler. Ditto writers Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling. Their screenplay may be based on "Cactus Flower" but it's been pureed almost beyond recognition in the Sandler blender. There's a wacky mean-girl turn by Nicole Kidman, who plays Devlin, Katherine's old college nemesis. Complications abound when they bump into each other in Hawaii, and not just in that old-scores-to-settle way. Devlin is what Katherine has adopted as her fake wife name, and it's also what her kids and Dr. Danny call poop. So along with all the other potty-mouth stuff, there is a lot of Devlin name-dropping going on. Ha, ha, ha.

The kids, Bailee Madison ("Bridge to Terabithia") and Griffin Gluck, have some cute bits as the precocious sort who squeeze a lot out of Dr. Danny in return for calling him Dad. Decker definitely has what it takes to look really good in an itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie … or at least I think that's what the filmmakers meant when they raved about her "natural talent." Swardson has his moments masquerading as the fake boyfriend, essentially providing the outrageous to counterbalance the generally low-key comedy elsewhere, though there is a sheep punch line that gets punched a few times too many.

If you're a Sandler film buff, the comedy is classic Sandler and will probably satisfy. Still, the best thing about the movie remains Aniston — she is reason enough to just go with it.

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