Just Go With It Review: A mid-winter escape to Hawaii, with some Hollywood enhancements

If you’re tired of cold, bitter winter weather, Just Go With It – the new Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston film — might be just the antidote. It’s a frothy, fizzy, cocktail-with-a-paper-umbrella kind of warm-hearted comedy set in a lush tropical setting – and who couldn’t use a little of that right now?

The script isn’t Oscar-winning material, but it does what it needs to: A single L.A. plastic surgeon (Sandler) pretends to be unhappily married so he can score with sympathetic women. When he meets a woman he thinks he really might want to marry, he has to prove to her that he’s going to divorce his wife. He coerces his long-suffering single-mother-of-two assistant (Aniston) to play the role of the wife, her kids get thrown into the ruse, and soon everyone ends up at the Grand Wailea resort on Maui bonding as a prelude to ending one marriage and starting another.

If you love Jennifer Aniston and/or Adam Sandler, you’ll probably like this movie. And if you love Hawaii, as I do, you’ll definitely get your aloha fix from the scenes shot on Maui and Kauai. The massive Grand Wailea gets diva treatment, with eye-candy shots of its verdant sprawling grounds, luxurious lobby, sumptuous suites, and enticing pool. There’s also a great extended luau sequence that shows dining on the lawn under the stars, complete with tiki torches and hula dancers. And speaking of hula, one of the best scenes in the film is an indoor hula competition where Jennifer Aniston ends up squaring off against Nicole Kidman. Yes, you read that right: Nicole Kidman, doing the hula. And doing it hip-shakingly, grass-skirt-twirlingly well, I might add.
For me, the highlight of the movie was the scene shot on Kauai, where the motley extended family visits a remote waterfall in an almost impossibly lush setting of trees and ferns, with an idyllic pool at its base. Not only does this provide inspiration for Brooklyn Decker to show off her SI-swimsuit-issue sartorial style, it’s a little visual Valentine to us all: the quintessential piece of Hawaiian paradise.

Of course, paradise doesn’t come naturally. The film’s production notes reveal that while the waterfall was perfect, the set still required some design and decoration. The movie’s production designer, Perry Andelin Blake, explains, “It wasn’t really lush and beautiful, so we brought in plants and flowers. Everything we brought in,” he hastens to add, “was a plant that can exist in this environment.” Because the pool was also too shallow, “the solution,” says Blake, “was to bring in fake rocks to dress a deeper part of the pool.” In fact, Decker’s character lounges on some of these foam rocks after she dives into the pool.

As Blake says, “You don’t find everything you’re looking for in any location. So, we made the jungle more jungle-y, but that’s the way you do it in the movies.”

More jungle-y indeed. In a sense, the Kauai on the big screen is about as real as the love that blossoms on its cinematic shores. But that’s not really the point: In the same way that the main characters’ ultimate discovery of love reminds me of its counterpart in my actual life, so the created Kauai transports me to the dripping, muddy, fern-bright, frangipani-sweet valleys that I return to whenever I can. And since the fare is cheaper than a ticket to Lihue, for now, I’m happy to Just Go With It.