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Romantic comedy which is good in parts, dire in others
on 28 April 2012
I'm not surprised that this 2011 romantic comedy attracted plenty of five star reviews, because there are several scenes in it that are unforgettably good. Neither am I surprised that it also collected some one star reviews, because other scenes are the exact opposite. In fact for me it had parts which ran the whole gamut from brilliant, through "so bad it's good," to embarrassingly awful.
Most of the cast, particularly Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, and Nicole Kidman, put in excellent and enjoyable performances, and there are several scenes which are funny, moving or both. However, there are too many parts of the story which cross the line between so ridiculous it's funny and so ridiculous it's daft, or where characters who are meant to be sympathetic cross the line between displaying the sort of fallible behaviour of which we can all imagine ourselves being guilty, and the sort which is so downright callous or unprofessional that you cease to sympathise with the character.
The film starts on the wedding day of the central character, Danny Maccabee (Sandler) who is about to become a surgeon. Without wishing to give too much away, things go terribly wrong and Danny is both badly hurt and put off the idea of marriage.
The rest of the introductory section of the film explains how Danny, who becomes a very wealthy and successful plastic surgeon, develops into a compulsive womaniser who has found the perfect trick to make himself attractive to women who have in common with him that they are not looking for a long-term relationship.
Then Danny meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) a stunningly attractive high school teacher about half his age. Suddenly, for the first time in many years, he thinks he might have found a woman who he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Unfortunately Palmer finds his old wedding ring, assumes that he is a married man who is cheating on his wife with her, and is furious.
Convinced that Palmer would not believe the truth, Danny sets out to provide himself with a fake separated-and-about-to-be-divorced wife, and persuades his assistant and friend, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) to play the role.
But one lie leads to another, and all the lies snowball until Danny, Palmer, Katherine, her kids, and Danny's idiot cousin Eddie find themselves taking a holiday in Hawaii together, where there are even more opportunities for ridiculous goings on. Particularly when they run into Katherine's former high school rival, Devlin (Nicole Kidman.)
It was complicated enough when Katherine was posing as Danny's wife to impress Palmer, but then they create a whole new set of lies involving Danny posing as Katherine's husband so that she won't look small in front of Devlin. And they have to keep both sets of lies straight ...
Things that are worth watching the film for include a priceless "Hula girl" competition between Catherine and Devlin. Having initially rented the film, I will probably eventually buy it so I can have another opportunity to watch the expressions on the faces of Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman during this scene, in one of the best displays of comic acting genius of 2011. Almost equally wonderful was the scene where Danny and his cousin teach Catherine's son to swim.
An episode likely to appeal to many men on one level and many women on another is a swimsuit scene in which the camera cuts to Danny as Catherine joins Palmer in a lagoon. Through a combination of Adam Sandler's brilliantly expressive acting, and the fact that Jennifer Aniston looks good enough in a bikini not to be embarrassed by comparison with a similarly-clad Brooklyn Decker (who adorned the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue the year before this film was released), you can almost see the gears working in Danny's head as he starts to think of Catherine in a completely different way.
An example of a scene which was "so bad it's good" is where Danny's cousin Eddie finds himself having to play doctor to a sick sheep.
Examples of embarrassingly bad scenes which nearly made me abandon the film occur when Adam Sandler's character displays a lack of compassion which made me unable to empathise with him or regard him as any sort of hero. Some of these scenes involve Catherine's kids, others have Danny and Katherine act in front of their patients with an atrocious lack of empathy and consideration which in the real world would be an intolerable lack of professionalism and could easily lead to a career-terminating complaint.
One amusing in-joke in the casting is that the real-world spouses of two of the main characters have matching cameos in the film. Adam Sandler's real wife Jackie Sandler plays his character's fiance at the beginning of the film. Brooklyn Decker's real husband, tennis ace Andy Roddick, has an equivalent short appearance later, described in the credits as "good-looking guy on plane." If you don't watch tennis, or possibly even if you do, it's a "blink and you'll miss him" cameo: he's the chap wearing the "I love Justin Beiber" slogan.
Overall this film definately has its' moments, but be prepared for the possibility that you may love it or hate it.