One Saturday night a few months ago, my partner and I were at my flat trying to work out what to do that evening. As it was the last weekend before payday, we were having a hard time planning a date that wouldn’t blow our last pennies – all two of them. So, naturally, we picked a DVD. Seeing as we haven’t been going out all that long in the grand scheme of things, we’re still at that point where we have two distinct identities and tastes, before the sands of time and familiarity gradually erode our individual senses of self.
Obviously, despite having Netflix, Amazon Prime, my embarrassingly large Blu-ray collection and the e n t i r e internet and at our disposal, we couldn’t think of anything we actually wanted thing to watch. Stressed, and with the weight of an evening’s entertainment on my shoulders, I stood staring at my DVD shelf. After a few minutes of awkward silence my partner had a great idea.
“Ouuuuuu! We could finally watch There Will Be Blood?”
My fingers flicked past my favourite film of all time and stopped at, hands down, the worst film I’ve ever seen.
“But I’ve got a better idea.”
That night we watched Adam Sandler’s genuinely grotesque Grown Ups 2, a film I first watched after hearing about Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery’s amazing podcast, where they watched and reviewed the movie once a week for an entire year. The podcast is appropriately titled The Worst Idea Of All Time. After 101 minutes of rampant misogyny, offensively bad catchphrases, and the unique horror of Kevin James’ ‘burpsnart’ (a burp that triggers a sneeze that triggers a fart in less than two seconds), my partner turned to me, a heartbreaking look of anger and confusion swirling in her beautiful blue eyes, and asked me one simple question I should have asked myself a long time ago.
“Just how little do you think my time’s worth?”
Now, I’ve been keeping up with Adam Sandler’s oeuvre for years. I grew up loving him in his Big Daddy, Billy Madison heyday, and I am accustomed to (and actually quite fond of) his latter day crimes. Reflected in my partner’s fresh eyes, I caught a glimpse of an alternative timeline, one where I didn’t play myself by picking monstrosities over masterpieces. I also realised that, at this point, it’s too late for me – I am damned, bound to stare into the abyss of atrocity after atrocity for all eternity, such is the destructive power of Adam Sandler’s awful, irresistible appeal. There’s no way I can subject her to The Do-Over.
Loved by fans, loathed by critics, Adam Sandler is a walking contradiction: He has one of the largest bodies of work of any current comedian, one of the most successful production companies in Hollywood, and an eight-film Netflix deal that he’s only *just* halfway done with. Yet Adam Sandler has not, according to Rotten Tomatoes, acted in a good film for more than eight years and, in a recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, he revealed that even his own children don’t enjoy his films. How is this man still allowed to make movies?
Honestly, the answer is predictably boring: Adam Sandler makes money. A lot of it.
Only two in the last 10 Adam Sandler vehicles have made a loss at the box office: The Cobbler, a film about a man whose cobbling machine allows him to live life in whoever’s shoes he wears, which only made back $1.8 million of its $10 million budget, and That’s My Boy with Andy Samberg. Grown Ups 2, the offensively awful stone cold stinker that almost ruined my relationship, currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 7%, yet the movie comfortably made back its (invisible) $80 million budget – it made a frankly heinous $247 million.
Around the same time, Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison, signed the aforementioned deal with Netflix for four pictures, which was then extended for a further four after their first collaboration, The Ridiculous Six, apparently attracted more views in its first 30 days than any other film on the platform. That’s despite it receiving a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – that’s zero per cent – and attracting publicity for rampant racism directed at Native Americans. From a business perspective, it just makes sense for Adam Sandler to keep making movies, and who cares how they’re received if they’re making fat stacks? However, like every single Line of Duty case ever, this answer only leads to more questions… Who are the Adam Sandler fans footing the bill?
“My brother and I used to watch Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore a LOT!” This is Bryony, a London-based content producer. “They're just stupid but mostly harmless, and The Wedding Singer is an actually great movie.
“More recently though, I must confess that my boyfriend and I watch his movies with the sense that we're on a safari into stupid-land. There's this one recent one with Jennifer Aniston [Just Go With It] and we looked up where it made all its money from to discover South America LOVES Adam Sandler movies.
“We then tried imagining a South American cinema full of people roaring with laughter after every stupid thing that happened, like this guy falling onto a goat (actually, it may have been a sheep) and it looked like he was fucking it.
“It's like hearing a real Ibiza anthem, and even though it might seem a bit shit and soulless, in the right setting it would be perfect, and because you can imagine that perfect setting, it makes you like the thing more as it is.”
I also spoke to Jenny, a 24-year-old blogger from Essex, who doesn’t care about Sandler’s bad reviews.
“Critics always mark films down and nitpick. Adam Sandler’s films might not be critically acclaimed, but they're light-hearted and fun, and people want and need that sometimes.
“I really liked Grown Ups! It’s fun to see how all the couples interact with each other and their relationships play out. I like the storyline too with them all being friends in school and then getting back in touch after so many years. It’s relatable.”
Adam Sandler is still able to make movies because, despite the bad reviews, awful politics and terrible performances, he still elicits an emotional response from his audience – whether they’re watching for genuine or ironic enjoyment. But, surely, someone with such a seemingly cynical take on entertainment, with his best work firmly behind him and bad reviews meaning nothing when faced with a good pay packet, must be a proper dickhead? Well, we’re sorry to inform you that no, apparently he’s a lovely bastard.
A few weeks ago, while I was still mulling over the contents of this article, I happened to find myself on set of a forthcoming comedy blockbuster (as you do). During the shoot, I met a number of amazingly interesting and talented people including, as it happens, a crew member who worked with Adam Sandler on some of his most high-profile projects, including Grown Ups, Bedtime Stories, and Jack And Jill.
Obviously, I asked what he was like to work with. Surely there must be some gossip, he must be a terrible man to make movies so utterly devoid of wit, humour, subtlety or tact. But to my horror the crew member couldn’t find a single bad word to say about him. Apparently he’s a “pleasure to work with” and “cares about every single member of his crew”
It was at that point another journalist, who used to live on the road where Sandler shot a sequence for his 2008 Disney film, Bedtime Stories, piped up with their own story. Here we go, I thought. Us journos are a tough bunch to please, now to get the real dirt. But, once again, Sandler came out smelling like roses. On the last day of shooting at a local library, residents of the street (who had experienced the general, mild disruption that can come from big budget film shoots) woke up to find individual gift baskets thanking them for their patience, expressing the everlasting gratitude of Mr. Sandler.
Just how a man so beloved by his crew, and seemingly all who meet him, for his warmth and humanity can have made a film like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which includes Rob Schneider appearing in full on yellow face and the dialogue below, is beyond me.
Larry Valentine (Kevin James): Domestic partnership.
Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler): Domestic partnership? You mean like faggots?
Larry Valentine: No, I mean yeah but, no, not us. Obviously. Just on paper.
Chuck Levine: Paper faggots?
Larry Valentine: Well, the accepted vernacular is "gay"... but yes.
Like I said before, Adam Sandler is a contradiction. A man critics loathe, but they can’t stop watching his movies. A filmmaker who’s proven he has talent, yet chooses to set it aside, or has simply forgotten how to access it. A man whose movies on one hand stress the importance of family – he casts his in almost every one of them – and on the other treat children and women in the most despicable ways. But why? To what end? What’s the mission here? Now that’s a question only one man can answer.
Adam, feel free to get in touch.