The last time Adam Sandler made a comedy set in Hawaii, it was 50 First Dates in 2004. That was also the last time Sandler made a really good comedy. Not counting the dark, underrated Funny People, the SNL alum has spent years cranking out truly lousy flicks: Click, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Despite its potential—and the fact that it was shot mostly on Maui—add his latest to the trash pile.
Sandler stars as a plastic surgeon who falls in love with a “total 10” (supermodel Brooklyn Decker). To convince his dream girl he’s ready for a long-term relationship, he talks his office assistant (Jennifer Aniston) into playing his pretend, soon-to-be-ex wife. Let’s stop here for a second. It’s true that women say they like a funny guy, but over the years Sandler has been paired with some incongruously hot chicks: Winona Ryder, Kate Beckinsale, Salma Hayek, Jessica Biel. Now he’s got two of them, one merely for show. The real Adam Sandler—the multi-millionaire movie star—could probably pull that off. The prickly, frumpy doctor he plays here? Not as likely.
The first half is wall-to-wall “jokes” about patients in need of plastic surgery, with heartless scenes featuring disfigured people who we’re supposed to laugh at because…um, they’re different? The ruse Sandler plays on his bride-to-be is both pointless and cruel, especially when Aniston brings her kids into the elaborate deception. While most Sandler vehicles have a supporting cast of colorful, off-the-wall characters, the fringe players in this one are simply annoying. There’s a sidekick who pretends to be German and a little girl with a cornball British accent who, in one especially cringe-worthy moment, lands head first in a pile of mud. Nicole Kidman shows up as a vicious society girl and nemesis of Aniston—it’s a performance that won’t win her any awards, but it does belong in a smarter movie. Seeing Kidman and Aniston in a highly competitive hula dance at the Grand Wailea is supposed to be a comic high point but instead ranks as one of the strangest movie moments of the year.
Without spoiling the “surprise,” there’s a main character who turns out to be gay. We know this because: a) in one scene, he successfully puts a coconut up his butt; and b) he flirts with a group of sailors. Between this and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Sandler seems intent on pushing gay characters back into the hopelessly dated category of swishy queens—or back into the closet.
Clearly returning to Hawaii didn’t get Sandler’s creative juices flowing. Too bad—we enjoyed having him. At his best he’s a gifted comedian. Maybe someone can remind him of that when he’s handed the script for Just Go With It Again.