Review: 'Just Go With It'

(One-and-a-half stars)

There are "movies with Adam Sandler in them," and there are "Adam Sandler movies." The former offer some hope of thoughtfulness and subtlety and style, while the latter strictly shoot for populism. Adam Sandler movies are for everyone! Unless you're ugly, uncool, old, fat, gay, non-white or, heaven help you, all of the above.

Adam Sandler movies are also, of course, critic-proof, though it's hard not to read the title of the latest as some kind of a warning to my profession. "Just Go with It" implies that people just need to lighten up, ditch political correctness and buy what Sandler's hawking: a patent-medicine formula of crass, classless humor and artificially sweetened, family-first romantic comedy. From an artistic standpoint, these elements mix as well as oil and water, but financially speaking, nothing succeeds like success, so what do I know?

Sandler's sixth collaboration with repeat offen -- err, director Dennis Dugan, derives from an unlikely source: the 1969 comedy "Cactus Flower" with Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn. Scripted by legendary Billy Wilder cohort I.A.L. Diamond ("Some Like It Hot," "The Apartment"), "Cactus Flower" itself derived from a Broadway play based on a French farce. The 2011 version casts Sandler as successful plastic surgeon Danny, a cad with a heart of gold.

For a quarter-century, Danny has swindled women into his bed by flaunting a ring left over from an aborted wedding. A problem arises when Danny makes a love connection with Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), the hottest sixth-grade math teacher in recorded history. Caught with the ring, Danny doesn't tell the simple lie of omission available to him, but rather fumbles his way into having to produce a wife he's supposedly in the process of divorcing and, whoops, kids. Here, he relies on the good will of his assistant, Katherine, a divorcee with two kids from central casting -- err, her first marriage.

Matters get yet more complicated when another landslide of lies forces Danny to take Palmer, Katherine, the kids and Danny's cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson) to Hawaii. This is great news, not only for the Maui Chamber of Commerce, but because it gets "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit model Decker under a waterfall in a scene that, well, hubba hubba. These Adam Sandler movies aren't above any appeal to the red-blooded American male: They stoop to conquer.

For the ladies, there's the growing realization between Danny and Katherine that they mean everything to each other, as well as a subplot about a years-long competition between Katherine and "frenemy" Devlin (Nicole Kidman). Yes, Kidman is so desperate to appear in a box-office hit that she will engage in the strange spectacle of nuzzling with Dave Matthews and the stranger one of a hula competition with Jennifer Aniston, emceed by sportscaster Dan Patrick.

Like all Adam Sandler movies, "Just Go with It" profitably taps into a juvenile energy, but the trade-off is racial stereotyping, loud product placement, and a cruel determination to laugh at people rather than with them. It all amounts not so much to romance or comedy as to the most strained of 20th-century farce.

Rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language. 1 hour, 56 minutes.

— Peter Canavese

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