At one point in the new Adam Sandler comedy Just Go With It, shortly before it transitions from being a romantic comedy with a strained premise into a convoluted slamming-door farce without the energy to do any door-slamming, a little girl asks Sandler, “Why don’t you tell that poor girl the truth?” She’s referring to Sandler’s young girlfriend—played, barely, by moonlighting swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker—and referencing the elaborate lie Sandler spun to Decker to make her think he used to be married to the girl’s mother (Jennifer Aniston), the office manager of his plastic-surgery practice. Smart kid. True, if Sandler fessed up, there wouldn’t be much of a movie, but the girl probably senses that Just Go With It isn’t much of a movie anyway.
Based, loosely, on the I.A.L. Diamond-scripted 1969 film Cactus Flower (which was in turn based on a Broadway play, which was in turn based on a French farce), Just Go With It piles coincidence upon misunderstanding upon mishap, with the low ambition and slack energy that’s become a Sandler trademark. There’s a fine line between easygoing charm—which Sandler used to generate effortlessly—and relaxed self-congratulation, and apart from a few isolated moments with Aniston, the subtext of his familiar, joyless performance boils down to “Well, you showed up for the last one, and here you are again.”
And what will showing up this time get Sandler fans? Some silly accents (mostly from frequent Sandler sidekick Nick Swardson, unbearable here as an lout who pretends to be German), a tangled plot that might have worked if handled by a filmmaker with more skill than go-to Sandler director Dennis Dugan, a lot of gratuitous bikini shots, plenty of smutty double entendres, a few cute interactions with kids, a bit of schmaltz, and some life lessons to bring it all home. Also, for some reason it will get them a couple played by Dave Matthews and Nicole Kidman, the latter trying hard to deliver a fun, broad comic performance, and looking like an overachiever for her trouble. But mostly, Just Go With It offers scenes of Aniston and Sandler deceiving Decker, whose inability to see through fabrications that wouldn’t fool a canny toddler suggest she might be suffering from some kind of undiagnosed neurological disease. She’s dumb, but well-meaning. Aniston and Sandler, however, play characters too awful to deserve anyone better than each other. But what did we do to deserve them?