It's hard to imagine that Adam Sandler has turned 50.
Off late, his films might not have made the kind of money or news that they once used, to but Sandler continues to be one of his kind. What makes him exceptional is the manner in which he has paced himself.
Far from running out of steam, he continues to make his kind of cinema on his terms and even has a dedicated audience along with producers who still believe in him.
When it comes to comedy in films, stupidity often outdoes every other form and satire offers a kind of moral amnesty.
Combine the two and you get Adam Sandler, the smartest at being stupid. He has made a living by continuously being offensive and tasteless — right from the mid-1990s when he started venturing in films while being a regular cast member on Saturday Nigh Live.
Unlike most comics who tire after a while and try to shift gears when their signature punchlines don’t get the usual laughs, Sandler refuses to change his delivery mechanism, which the incorrigible man-child.
He seems to be blissfully unaware of a limit to his style, often considered tasteless by many, and continues to carry on no matter what critics or commentators would like to believe.
Sandler’s recent multi-million dollar deal with Netflix came under a lot of criticism following the release of Ridiculous 6 (2015), a broad satire of westerns and the stereotypes that the genre popularized. Suddenly everyone had a reason to hate Sandler’s tastelessness all over again.
The film opened to poor reviews and after a while, it wasn’t the film but Netflix’s statement on the issue that came under flak. It said that the film was titled Ridiculous 6 for a reason and added that the diverse cast was “not only part of — but in on — the joke”. This being their first of the four-picture deal with Sandler, they saw no reason to change anything. Of course, the film’s debut got Netflix its best ever viewing figures.
In the last couple of years Sandler has made six films - The Cobbler (2014), Men, Women & Children (2014), Top Five(2014), Blended (2014), Pixels (2015) and The Ridiculous 6 (2015). None seem to be the kind of stuff which the fans that loved 50 First Dates (2004), Little Nicky (2000), Big Daddy (1999), The Wedding Singer (1998), Happy Gilmore (1996) or Billy Madison (1995) would enjoy as much.
Eddie Murphy faced this loss of space earlier and so did Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, and Richard Pryor. Although Sandler does what he does, he still tries to connect with his one-time core audience. It’s not like Sandler isn’t smart enough to try experimenting like the other greats, but perhaps he is smart enough to not overdo that.
One of his best roles was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002) where he played a psychologically disturbed entrepreneur pushed towards a romance with an English woman while being extorted by a phone-sex line owner.
A decade later Sandler featured in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children (2014) as a part of an ensemble cast that endeavors to understand the ways the Internet has changed their relationships and love lives. Sandler isn’t the greatest comic around but he does rank way up and just because his onscreen image is one of an obnoxious, distasteful jock who couldn’t care less, it doesn’t mean that he should be judged differently.
With a gross box-office collection of $244 million and immense popularity, why is it that Netflix’s decision to tie-up with Sandler is seen as a step-down for the brand but when Amazon pursues Woody Allen for anything he wants to do, is celebrated as a triumph?
Adam Sandler has always cracked offensive and even racist jokes and perhaps they hurt people too. But even while being offensive and racist, Sandler often displays a sense of non-commitment to everything and tries to show his or his character’s shallowness and ignorance more than offending the other.
Perhaps this, like film critic Bilge Ebiri pointed out, could be the key to the actor’s appeal across his fan base as it maybe “makes him more like the average American.” Also, there could be something seriously wrong if anyone sought a serious takeaway from an Adam Sandler film on topics such as race (Blended), gay marriage (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) or the Arab-Israeli conflict (You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2007).