“Just Go With It” & “The Romantics”
            These two films, one just released on the big screen and the other on dvd, actually have similar plots.  But the atmosphere is entirely different, and so is the result.
            “Just Go With It” is the latest Adam Sandler comedy.  The basic premise is, “start out with a little white lie and watch how many more you have to tell to cover yourself.”   Danny (Adam Sandler) is a plastic surgeon who finds out on the eve of his wedding that his bride doesn’t really love him, in fact, she thinks he’s a buffoon, she’s just marrying him for the economic security, but she intends to get her kicks elsewhere.  He’s so devastated that he refuses to make a commitment to anyone after that.  He does however, continue to wear his wedding ring, and tells one series of whoppers after another to girls about why he’s lonely, and decides this is a great way to get one-night stands, no strings attached. 
            Meanwhile, back at the office, his ever-faithful assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Anniston), is a divorced Mom with two kids who doesn’t have time to date anyone.  But when her boss actually meets someone he wants to impress, Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), he winds up asking Katherine to help him back up one of his lies by playing his ex-wife.  When she balks, he pleads, “Just Go With It.”  Somehow, they all wind up on vacation together, and while there they happen to bump into her old social nemesis, Devlin (Nicole Kidman), so Katherine asks Danny to play her husband so she won’t look unattached: “Just Go With It.”  Of course, the deceptions produce other pretenses, and there is a kind of humor in all the silliness, but actually it’s a love story between Danny and Katherine (but you knew that, didn’t you?).  The irony is that the groom must decide if he needs to hurt his unsuspecting bride on the eve of the wedding, just as he was hurt so many years before.  More manic than comic, more tragic-humorous than roll-in-the-aisle hilarious, but still, with all the veteran A-list actors, it has its appealing moments.
            “The Romantics” is another one of those crisis-on-the-wedding-day relational quagmires, but the little joking is merely discomfort humor.  This is a serious love triangle between the groom, Tom (Josh Duhamel), the bride, Lila (Anna Paquin), and the Maid of Honor, Laura (Katie Holmes).  Tom and Laura were an item all through school, but she took an internship elsewhere, though he begged her not to go.  So he, predictably, gets involved with her best friend, Lila, and finds her to be someone who doesn’t get under his skin nearly as much.  That’s both good and bad; their relationship is comfortable, but not very passionate, sort of like an old married couple, except they’re neither old nor married, yet.  The trouble starts when all the old school friends reunite for the wedding.  Tom and Laura discover not only plenty of old sparks, but have unfinished business about how their relationship ended.  Tom has a bad case of the day-before-jitters, but his bride wants to go through with it, anyway, and meanwhile their other friends take an opportunity to do some raucous partying like the old days, except this time with even less inhibition, as if everyone’s running on raw emotion and unrestrained libido, fueled by inhibition-releasing alcohol and yes, even a little drug use.  At one point, a drunk, naked couple is running through the yard, she’s giggling uncontrollably, and he’s shouting, “I’m Alive!”  But that’s mere unfettered backdrop to the incendiary love triangle that’s still flaring up literally minutes before the ceremony. 
            These two movies could have successfully exchanged titles.    Katherine and Danny are “The Romantics” who don’t want to be disappointed again, but somehow find each other, and Tom and Lila are ready to “Just Go With It” despite the maid-of-honor’s petulant “but we’re soul-mates!” objection.  And she probably won’t forever hold her peace, either.  As it is, the Adam Sandler movie relies on a complex plot for simple humor, and the Katie Holmes film depends on connecting with the existential angst of everybody being needy, but nobody getting quite what they want.  In the end, it depends on whom you want to look at for two hours.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas