Adam Sandler insists the glamor he debuted on Monday’s Good Morning America wasn’t the result of a fistfight. But I still have to wonder: did AO Scott finally slap the poor guy in the face?
After all, the joker has been the most popular punching bag among film critics for years.
It’s harder to spot plump red fruit on his RottenTomatoes page than it is at a farmers’ market in January. Even the actor’s early career titles that regular audiences loved — “Billy Madison,” “Big Daddy,” and “The Waterboy” — were labeled “idiotic,” “throwaway,” and “mindless” by my black turtleneck-wearing peers.
Now, as his new film Hustle — a feel-good traditional sports comedy in which Sandler plays a talent scout — hits Netflix Wednesday, some 32 years after it rose to prominence on Saturday Night Live, one question gnaws: why does the cultural elite hate Adam Sandler so much?
Maybe, as The Waterboy’s Bobby Boucher once said, “You people are drinking the wrong water.”
More than just about any other comic talent — including Jim Carrey, to whom he’s long been disparagingly compared — Sandler actually embodies a catchphrase critics hold dear: danger.
Remember that scene from the fantastic 1998 comedy that survived incredibly well, The Wedding Singer, where the title character Robbie sings a song he wrote for his cruel fiancé who left him at the aisle?
Sandler begins in a gentle falsetto, “You don’t know how much I need you. When you’re around I don’t feel bad.” And without pausing, he yells, “BUT IT WAS ALL COPS – T! IT WAS A DAMN JOKE!”
Do the lyrics sparkle with Cole Porter’s wit? no But the belly laughs are big because his personality is as uncontrollable as Flubber. How refreshing is it to have the loud, sloppy guy next door on screen instead of an endless supply of soft-spoken, savvy townsfolk?
Honestly, I’d rather watch 50 First Dates than half of this year’s Best Picture nominees.
I suspect one of Sandler’s problems was that he found fame too late for his extreme, lewd style. 1978’s “Animal House” and 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” also lack intelligence and subtlety, but are more highly acclaimed by movie fans than, say, “Happy Gilmore.” At that time we valued comedy in addition to seriousness. Now we avoid it.
Sandler’s reputation rose when he starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s dark rom-com Punch Drunk Love in 2002, and even more so with his seismic and hysterical performance as a seedy New York City Diamond District salesman in Uncut Gems.
But even the role of his life failed to earn him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Leonardo DiCaprio snuck in that year for using a goofy Southern accent on “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” and Joaquin Phoenix won for using a wacky voice on “Joker.” But god forbid Sandler gets recognized – he always sounds so weird!
One word Sandler is often thrown at is “obnoxious.” Well, I find it obnoxious that Tom Cruise is getting an early Oscar hype for Top Gun: Maverick — a fun film, sure, but not a film that gets anyone gushing about the acting. Just like your parents, Tinseltown plays favorites.
Will Sandler ever get his golden moment of confirmation onstage at the Dolby Theater on Oscars night? Or a critical rethink? Probably not in narrow-minded Hollywood. Just more metaphorical black eyes.