The quantum of care and consideration that's been lavished on Adam Sandler's latest gromance — his trademark love story with gross-out humour — is evident from the title, Just Go With It. An earlier film with this premise of a bachelor (then played by Walter Matthau) pretending to be unhappily married in order to score with women bore an altogether different name: Cactus Flower. That title was a reference to the prickly character played by Ingrid Bergman, who blossomed by the film's end.
But metaphors are no longer in vogue today — you'd have to actually think to get what they mean. And hence this great big shrug of a title, which is practically an injunction to the viewer to stop complaining and go with the flow, and which presumably came about because Oh If You Have Nothing Better To Do and Why Bother Fighting It were already taken.
This is not going to be one of those reviews that lament how great those old romantic comedies were and how Hollywood has forgotten how to make them. Cactus Flower is one of those relics from 1960s Broadway — like the Neil Simon comedies — that told audiences that it was okay to come to the theatre and have a laugh. (And coming out of the 1950s, dominated by the soul-lacerating dramatics of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, those audiences really did need a laugh.) But it doesn't stand up too well today, and the idea of an update that clears the cobwebs is not entirely unwelcome.
Sandler (a plastic surgeon, all the better for enlargement and implant jokes) falls for Brooklyn Decker despite his caddish philosophy of never getting too serious, and when she insists on meeting his wife, he's forced to find a makeshift spouse in Jennifer Aniston (playing his assistant, and making her own contributions to the target demographic by sporting, on different occasions, a bikini and a coconut bra). Unsurprisingly, the layers in the earlier film — say, the easy cruelty of men like Matthau, who think nothing of using “old maids” like Bergman for their selfish purposes — are swept aside for getting-hit-in-the-crotch jokes (not one but two).
And that is how it should be. For one, Aniston is nobody's idea of an old maid. Secondly, no one goes to an Adam Sandler movie to probe into the psyche of men of a certain vintage. Sandler, as always, is a ten-year-old in a grown-up's body, and Just Go With It features a few gross-outs that unleash the sniggering ten-year-olds inside us we're so careful to conceal in civil society.
But the film's big problem is that it cannot find a balance between these gross-outs and the gooey romance at the centre, which was never the case with Sandler's 50 First Dates, a great gromance and surely the only romantic comedy that featured a vomiting walrus. Sandler and Aniston never convince us that they belong together, not even amidst the travel-porn locations of sun-soaked Hawaii. And looking at that gratuitous change of scenery, I wondered if we should stop being so harsh with our own movies when they zip off to uncalled-for foreign destinations. Maybe we too, sometimes, should just go with it.
Just Go With It
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Adam Sandler, Brooklyn Decker, Jennifer Aniston
Storyline: A bachelor pretends to be unhappily married in order to score with women
Bottomline: Well, if you have the time and nothing else to fill it with…