Directed by: Dennis Dugan (Grown Ups)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Nicole Kidman, Dave Matthews
About 42 years ago, there was a relatively painless and undistinguished movie called Cactus Flower starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn. It was based on a play by Abe Burrows, which was itself adapted from a French play. Now, it’s not only been modernized, it’s been Sandlerized, which means it has a significant jiggle quotient, a dollop of smut, a lot of of leering, some gay jokes and a few outcroppings of scatological humor. This does not speak well for the advances of culture in the intervening years. Which is neither surprising, nor noteworthy at this late date. What is surprising is how subdued Sandler is this round (don’t worry, Sandler-pal Nick Swardson is ready to take up the slack). This might be viewed as an improvement, I suppose, but it comes across more like he’s not even trying.
What we get here is a backstory that explains—with the aid of a cringe-inducing prosthetic nose—how Danny (Sandler) discovered that a wedding ring and a line about an abusive wife is some kind of babe magnet with the bonus that his quarry won’t get too serious. This, a career as a successful plastic surgeon and a nose job have ensured his happiness—till he meets 20-something bimbette Palmer (the well-endowed, acting-challenged Brooklyn Decker) and realizes (after one night) he wants to spend his life with her. The prospect of this is dashed when she discovers his bogus wedding band and assumes the obvious.
So how can Danny get out of this? Why, by claiming that he’s in the process of getting a divorce, naturally. But what if Palmer insists on meeting this woman? Oh, well, he’ll Svengali his assistant Katherine (Aniston) into posing as his soon-to-be-ex—an expensive undertaking when Katherine kind of takes him for a ride when he takes her shopping, since he wants Palmer to think he had a hot wife. It will end up costing ever so much more when the inevitable complications ensue—like bribing her children into pretending to be his, and taking everyone—including his cousin Eddie (the incredibly annoying Swardson, posing as Katherine’s new betrothed, an accented “sheep importer” named Dolph Lundgren) to Hawaii.
More complications arise there when they run into Katherine’s old school nemesis Devlin (Nicole Kidman). It doesn’t help, you see, that the only name Danny could think of when asked his wife’s name was Devlin—or that “Devlin” is Katherine’s cute name for feces. Yes, well. Do you really need to know more? OK, here: You get to see Nick Swardson perform the Heimlich maneuver on a really hokey fake sheep, you get to see a hula jiggle-off between Aniston and Kidman and you get to see Dave Matthews pick up a coconut with his butt. If that appeals to you, so will the movie. If you can’t figure out how all this will end, you need to get out more.
The amazing thing about the movie is that the best thing in it is Jennifer Aniston, an actress I usually find stupefyingly charmless. Maybe she just seemed better by comparison, but I’ve seen her in some stinkers before and she didn’t help them. Here, she seemed the only believable and human—even occasionally funny—thing in the whole movie. The usually reliable Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, is saddled with a thankless role that she seems to think she can enliven by overplaying. Unfortunately, it merely comes across as desperation. For the only time in her career, she finds herself upstaged by the underplaying of a much blander actress. I suppose that gives the movie some kind of historical import. But it’s a history lesson I could have done without. My advice? Just go with it—and take it out of here. Rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language.