Adam Sandler's latest working vacation takes him to Hawaii, with remaking a 42-year-old movie as his excuse. It doesn't matter that 1969's Cactus Flower never left New York. Shifting locales so Sandler can comfortably relax between takes that obviously aren't taxing is what passes for invention in his world.
Just Go With It is a comedy as lazy as Sandler's previous boondoggles in Cabo San Lucas and Tel Aviv (You Don't Mess With the Zohan), Napa Valley (Bedtime Stories) and Niagara Falls (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry). This guy's checkbook and passport are sometimes interchangeable. Once again Sandler's traveling companion is his enabling director Dennis Dugan, whose only obvious talent is an inability to say "no" to his star.
Sandler plays Danny Maccabee, a plastic surgeon whose short-lived marriage turned him into a serial dater, seducing women with a fake wedding band and tales of spousal neglect and abuse. In Cactus Flower, Walter Matthau (playing a dentist, but that profession doesn't allow breast jokes) lied about marriage to only one woman — Oscar winner Goldie Hawn — as a defense mechanism against commitment, not a predatory ploy. That disconnect with the source is a constant flaw in Just Go With It.
Danny's scheme hits a snag when he actually falls in love with a walking pinup poster named Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) while being himself. She finds his bogus ring and he goes into damage control, lying about an impending divorce. Palmer wants the wife's blessing before things go too far; Danny needs a phony wife to complete the deceit.
The solution is his receptionist Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), who enjoys watching her boss twist in the wind. She agrees to pose as his soon-to-be former wife, leveraging the favor into a shopping binge and the Hawaii trip. Katherine is a divorced mother of two, unlike Ingrid Bergman's spinster in Cactus Flower. That means she drags along the kids (Bailee Madison, Griffin Gluck, each with a unique capacity for annoyance).
It's obvious that Danny and Katherine belong together, a cliche reinforced by Sandler and Aniston's easy, breezy banter. But the cartoon characters surrounding them — especially Nicole Kidman again failing to prove her comedic chops — make drudgery of the path to that foregone conclusion. Sandler's signature gags (a groin injury, comical child abuse, etc.) still inexplicably got laughs from an audience who got in free.
It's a shame to compare Just Go With It with a comic gem like Cactus Flower, but Sandler and Dugan brought it on themselves. The only notable similarity between the films comes early when Sandler dons a prosthetic nose resembling Matthau's famous schnozz. Then he rubs this movie in it.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.