DVD: The Oscar-Winning Movie That Somehow Became Just Go With It
Since Adam Sandler already bumbled his way into a Gary Cooper role with Mr. Deeds, his remake of Frank Capra's classic Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, it's clear that the comedian is unfazed about tackling the work of his betters. And while Cactus Flower (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) is no unassailable masterpiece, this clunky 1969 farce feels like Feydeau when compared to Sandler's latest atrocity, Just Go With It.
It's pretty much a given, but let's be clear about it anyway -- Sandler is no Walter Matthau. And on the same page, Jennifer Aniston is no Ingrid Bergman, Brooklyn Decker is no Goldie Hawn (who won a Best Supporting Actress for this, her first major film role), and Nick Swardson is no Jack Weston. And director Dennis Dugan needs to be sent off to a reeducation camp somewhere before he's ever again allowed within 100 yards of a camera.
But anyway, back to Cactus Flower -- Matthau stars as playboy dentist Julian, who seduced girlfriend Toni (Hawn) by lying and telling her he's married with children. But when she attempts suicide after he stands her up for their anniversary dinner, the lifelong bachelor decides he wants to marry her. But Toni insists on meeting his wife first, so he engages his spinster nurse (Bergman) to play the role of the fake-wife. Wackiness, as they say, ensues.
The film barely hides its theatrical roots; frequent Billy Wilder collaborator I.A.L. Diamond adapted Abe Burrows' play, itself a reworking of a French farce, and it feels like one of those claustrophobic movies that's set in New York City but shot entirely in Southern California. And for a farce, there's an odd sluggishness to it -- had this material been shot in the '40s, the dialogue would have pingponged back and forth at a breathless pace, while this has the loginess of a pot party.
And speaking of which, you can just tell that this was a movie designed to make people on the older end of the late-'60s generation gap feel groovy, what with the extended sequence of Bergman and Hawn frugging to Muzak-y arrangements of Monkees hits.
Still, it's fun to watch this cast of pros (along with veteran character actor Vito Scotti) go through their paces. And seriously, it's so much better than the horrid Just Go With it, you can't even believe.