Unknown eventually comes undone, and there’s no great need to Just Go With It

by Mark Burger

Unknown is yet another movie in which Liam Neeson, seemingly the hardest-working man in show business, brings more to the project than he ever gets back.

Into this foreboding and well made milieu comes Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson), who’s come to Berlin to attend an international bio-technology conference accompanied by his knockout younger wife (January Jones). While she’s checking into the hotel, however, Martin hops into a cab to retrieve a briefcase accidentally left at the airport — and that’s where the story really kicks off.

Martin barely survives an unexpected auto accident, saved from certain death by arguably the most glamorous cab driver in recent screen memory (Diane Kruger), and awakens from a four-day coma with a case of partial amnesia, one of the all-time gimmicks of melodrama. Next stop: “The Twilight Zone.” Sort of.

His wife doesn’t recognize him. What’s more, there’s another Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn) on her arm.

Not only must Neeson’s Martin Harris prove his identity to others and to himself — there are clues scattered throughout the narrative, some rather overtly — and eventually he must step in to save the day before catastrophe strikes.

Any time that Neeson or Kruger get behind the wheel of a car, you can expect a demolition derby to ensue. Amid the chaos and vehicular violence, there’s excellent use of Berlin locations.

It’s fun, for a time at least, as the plot twists pile up, and Neeson brings his customary conviction to the proceedings, but as the story becomes increasingly more far-fetched with each piece of the puzzle falling into place, the film does just the opposite, falling apart well before the end credits roll.

Jones, Quinn and Frank Langella all look and act suspiciously, as well they should, and there’s a neat turn by Bruno Ganz as an ex-spy who helps to put Harris on the right track. But by the end of Unknown, much of what has gone before has been instantly, if not unpleasantly, forgotten. This isn’t a bad movie, but don’t be surprised if cinematic amnesia strikes shortly thereafter.

The box-office friendly, if artistically worrisome, pairing of Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston ought to reap some coin for Just Go With It an updated remake of the Broadway comedy (and subsequent film) Cactus Flower directed in his usual, lackadaisical fashion by long-time Sandler helmer Dennis Dugan.

The original 1969 film, which starred Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn (who won the Oscar as best supporting actress), has been retailored to suit the talents, such as they are, of its current performers.

Sandler plays a successful Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and inveterate bachelor who’s always able to woo his women by convincing them he’s in a bad marriage. But when he meets the girl of his dreams (Brooklyn Decker), he is forced to have his single-mom assistant (Aniston) pose as the exwife-to-be.

Yes, it’s about as flimsy as it sounds. Eventually, everyone ends up in Hawaii, where despite the contrivances and coincidences of the screenplay (courtesy Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling, clearly relaxed scribes), they all seem to enjoy themselves. After all, it’s Hawaii. Where better to make an insignificant movie and get paid for it?

Dave Matthews, Kevin Nealon, Nick Swardson, Rachel Dratch and Allan Covert drop in, but it’s an unbilled Nicole Kidman, in a surprisingly large role as Aniston’s high-school rival, who earns most of the laughs here, if only because her presence is so unexpected.

As a remake of Cactus Flower, Just Go With It isn’t very good.

As an Adam Sandler or Jennifer Aniston movie, however, it’s not as painful as one might have feared. However, if you find yourself roped into going to see Just Go With It, perhaps the best thing to do is Just Get It Over With.