It feels fitting that the soundtrack to Dennis Dugan's 'Just Go with It' consists mostly of mash-ups and covers. The film, a remake of 1969's Oscar-winning 'Cactus Flower' (itself an adaptation of a Broadway play, which was itself an adaptation of a French play), jostles between folly and genuine farce in a manner decidedly progressive for the likes of Dugan and his frequent collaborator, star Adam Sandler -- which is to say, it's better than their 'Grown Ups,' 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan' and 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry'. Make of that what you will.
This time around, Sandler plays Danny, a successful plastic surgeon who long ago had his heart broken by his bride-to-be and has since managed to make "being married" an attractive quality to most women in most bars. After spending one honest night with schoolteacher Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), Danny's about to play it straight when she discovers his critical prop: a wedding band. She says she's disgusted. He says he's getting a divorce. She says she wants to hear that from her. He begs his assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), to play the part of his ex-to-be, and from there, the web of lies only continues to grow.
In its early scenes, 'Just Go with It' works when Katherine and her two kids (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) take advantage of Danny's desperation and considerable income, all eager -- at times, too much so -- to play their part. The immorality of being a fake adulterer goes unsurprisingly ignored by the Happy Madison crew, but at least this lot is willing to milk Sandler's sociopath for all that he's worth. Eventually, they manage to milk an entire trip to Hawaii: lead, lover, fake ex, fake kids and cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson) in tow.
Dugan constantly shoots their paid vacation and indeed the entire film like a commercial, and with the rampant product placement, it's hard not to believe that's the case. Cuts are sloppy, dialogue looping is obvious, and although they must've seemed fresh after every take on set, Sandler's perpetual off-the-cuff name checks become a monotonous crutch in scene after scene. The man can't resist ethnic stereotypes, plastic surgery mishaps, shots to the groin or sheep resuscitation gags (a moment any other film would've played off as something funnier said than shown), and the film runs nearly two hours for all its allegedly comedic indulgences.
But when the film becomes something resembling the romantic farce it originated as, it's not bad. Sandler and Aniston work well together as partners-in-crime, and it's fun to see the characters act out their own characters with both relish and friction. While Decker's supermodel looks can't be denied (and aren't), Palmer's ability to swallow the ever-building B.S. is itself a bit hard to swallow. A second-half surprise comes in the form of Nicole Kidman, playing Katherine's more successful sorority rival. She plays it like an audition for 'Some Like It Hot,' openly dopey and aggressively driven, and of the entire cast and crew, she stands out as the one person who best demonstrates exactly what type of movie this was meant to be. (Her husband, it should be said, is played by Dave Matthews of 'Zohan' and 'Chuck & Larry', seemingly imitating Thomas Lennon here.)
Just as 'The Heartbreak Kid' became a bawdy, clunky shell of its former self a few years back, 'Just Go with It' keeps welcoming crude asides rather than embracing the inherent absurdity of the situation, a formula which managed to work at least three times before. For Sandler and Dugan, this qualifies as almost good; without Sandler and Dugan, it might've been something great.