Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 116 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
It might come as a surprise to older audiences who may have strayed unwittingly into an Adam Sandler movie to find that it is based on the 1969 film with Ingrid Bergman, Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn in her Oscar-winning performance, Cactus Flower. It follows the key characters and plot devices of Cactus Flower but turns them into a 21st century romantic comedy (with touches of 21st century innuendo and straightforward sex jokes – though most of them could probably go straight through to the keeper!).
Despite the jokes and some ogling of the Goldie Hawn equivalent (swimwear model, Brooklyn Decker) and some visual humour at the expense of those who indulge in plastic surgery and the ridiculous consequences, this is quite an amiable film. And Adam Sandler, now in his 40s, has mellowed for this role, from a serial womaniser who pretends to be married to preserve himself from any commitment, to a middle aged potential committed husband and stepfather. He does this quite genially.
Which means that Jennifer Aniston has the Ingrid Bergman role. Critics and audiences were surprised in 1969 when they saw Ingrid letting her hair down (somewhat). Critics and audiences will not be surprised to find Jennifer Aniston here, but they might be surprised to see her in one of her best performances. She is fully in the spirit of the film, the loyal assistant to the plastic surgeon, divorced mother of two, pretty but pretty dowdy who does not expect her life to turn out the way it will. As with Ingrid (who had one on her desk), she is the cactus who flowers.
The gist of the film is that Palmer (the blonde bombshell that Danny proposes to – who teaches maths at school!) thinks that Danny is really married and wants to meet his wife – and then discovers that he has children. After a shopping spree, Katharine really flowers (and has some good lines in repartee while pretending to be Danny’s wife) but then has to deal with a trip to Hawaii where Danny’s brother Eddie poses as Katharine’s boyfriend and joins the extended family where Palmer hopes they will all bond. (It is very hard to bond with Eddie; he has all the innuendo and more.
Cactus Flower was itself based on a French farce of mistaken identities and this is how the Hawaii episodes are played – so that, we know it of course, Danny will realise that he really loves and likes being with the constant Katharine, and also likes her children, one of whom does drama classes and speaks most of the time with a British accent that is beyond Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins, the other of whom he teaches to swim as a real Dad should. A lot is played for laughs and mostly it is quite amusing.
Then we are offered a special treat. Katharine has always disliked her snooty college room-mate Devlin (and has used her name as a euphemism for a bodily function for her children). Danny in panic has called Katharine Devlin in talking with Palmer. So, who should turn up in Hawaii but Devlin herself. And she is more than snooty. She is garrulously snobbish, always wants to be first and win (which gets tested with Katharine in a hula contest) and is an all-out gushing phony. The reason for saying all this is that Devlin is played with a great sense of humour, relishing playing such an obnoxious character, by Nicole Kidman. She should do more comedies. She has good timing and delivery of her unpleasant lines.
While it is another Adam Sandler comedy, it is nicer than usual and an entertaining pastime.
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