Pixels reminded us all just how shitty an actor Adam Sandler can be. But it’s worse than you probably realize. As a star, and also as a producer, Sandler has created a string of horrible, vapid comedies that have helped make us all dumber. His movies are “films,” in the same sense that colonoscopies produce films.
Sandler has specialized in comedies with a contrived “high concept” premise, that can be explained in a sentence, and usually sounds kind of interesting, until you see it actually play out over a two-hour period. Dumb, contrived comedies where something weird happens to a regular guy are nothing new, but Sandler has taken the ball dropped by Nora Ephron, and run with it.
Let’s just review some of the horrible films that Sandler has been involved with, including a few that aren’t technically SF or fantasy:
Sandler is the good-hearted son of Satan (Harvey Keitel) who has to retrieve his two evil brothers before they unleash Hell on Earth, and mostly bickers with a talking bulldog (who wishes he was in Men in Black) and chases small children around with his hip flask, screaming “GET IN THE FLASK!” (Seriously. Watch this highlight reel.)
Rob Schneider swaps bodies with a beautiful woman, who has to learn to cope with being a beautiful woman in Rob Schneider’s body. There is a long nose-hair-trimming sequence, and lots of “hilarious” bits where Schneider expresses all of his inner femininity. This is possibly the worst gender-swapping comedy I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen Juwanna Mann, Sorority Boys, White Chicks, and that awful Blake Edwards hot-tub murder film. (And here’s a good place to mention that Sandler also made a horrible film where he plays his own sister.)
A thirty-something Jewish man learns the true meaning of Hanukkah... which has to do with poop jokes, basically.
A former Israel counter-intelligence superspy fakes his death and becomes a Manhattan hairstylist, only to be forced to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians in New York, by getting them to open a shopping mall together.
This guy’s neighbor built a robot, but it turned out gay, and it’s constantly coming out with sports statistics and trying to convince human males to have gay sex with it. (This was based on a sketch on one of Sandler’s comedy albums, but was developed into a feature-length TV pilot for a show that never aired, as well as some animated short episodes. It was also supposed to be a full-length movie at one point. Seriously, don’t watch this clip from the pilot if you value any part of your sanity.)
Sandler is a hard-working architect who gets a remote control that allows him to pause and fast-forward through the boring parts of his life. But blah blah blah morality lesson, blah blah blah, don’t fast-forward through your life or you’ll miss the things that really matter, blah. I haven’t seen this one, but according to the Guardian, it contains offensive humor about Arabs, Japanese people, and “a man mistaking his 14-year-old daughter for a hot piece of ass.”
A group of young people discover a shortcut behind their house, but there’s a scary old guy with a terrible secret, in Sandler’s only horror movie. (Apparently this was based on a real childhood memory of Sandler’s, in which he saw a homeless man feeding human feces to a dog, only to be told “This doesn’t concern you.” That was one of Sandler’s formative experiences.)
A mad scientist transplants animal parts into Rob Schneider, who then gains the strength, speed and abilities of those animals... as well as their uncontrollable sex drives. I got this movie on DVD for $1 and have never been able to sit through it, but here’s a youtube clip of the “funniest scene” from it, where Schneider twists an ape’s nipple.
Adam Sandler is a shoe-repair guy who can literally “walk in someone else’s shoes.” Which, I don’t think you’d want Adam Sandler’s feet in your shoes, if you were planning on wearing them again. I also have not seen The Cobbler, but according to this review, instead of being about empathizing with others, it’s just a series of moronic gags:
He puts on a pair of red pumps and becomes a transgendered woman, but instead of exploring what it means to be transgendered, he just pokes his junk and makes an icky face, and then other people tell him he’s ugly. He dons the expensive shoes of a good looking guy (played by the super good looking Dan Stevens) and discovers that the good looking guy is bisexual, but instead of delving into what it’s like to be bi, he just tries to pick up a hot chick. Becoming a rich guy is just about joyriding in his car, and being a black teen is a disguise for slipping in and out of shady buildings. It’s exactly as offensive as it sounds.
Or as another reviewer puts it, “the film is almost defiant in its judgment of books by their covers.”
Adam Sandler and Kevin James pretend to be a gay couple to get benefits or something. Cue lots of jokes about sword-swallowing and putting things in your butt. America!
A group of struggling reality TV producers go in search of Bigfoot (Spoiler alert: They find him and kill him with machine guns.) But mostly, there are mangled penises, a character named Dick who’s the subject of dick jokes, and a shark eating a guy’s hand. This is notorious as the worst-rated film that Sandler has ever been associated with, which is saying something.
A guy tells bedtime stories to his kids... and they become real! This is one of the “heartwarming” family films that Sandler put out, and it’s dreadfully dull, except for one wacky Star Wars sequence. Plus in a common theme of these films, the “relatable” hero’s “escapist” experience is just about furthering his own self-interest—those bedtime stories actually serve to help his career.
Drew Barrymore has magical brain damage which causes her to live the same day over and over again, so Adam Sandler has to keep going on a first date with her. (Insert your own jokes about wishing you had brain damage that would make you forget seeing most of these films.) First Dates is the most rom-commy of Sandler’s many rom-coms, and is by all accounts one of the least crappy Sandler films of the past 15 years.
Kevin James is a zookeeper who discovers that his zoo animals can talk, and they decide to help him find twue wuv, through a series of hilarious stunts and by teaching him fling his own poo. (Basically.) This film is horrifying in its misanthropy and consists of lots of animals whose lips move in a scary fashion, and the making of it reportedly involved a lot of animal abuse in real life.
There’s also a few “hilarious” movies, where a shlubby guy is identified by their first name, followed and their goofy occupation/characteristic, like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo or Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, or Paul Blart: Mall Cop. (Or just Joe Dirt.)
We’re just barely scratching the surface here—but in a nutshell, Sandler’s legacy has consisted of an awful lot of “gimmick” comedies, in which the gimmick is idiotic.
Especially as he’s kept making these, his “everyman” characters have gotten more misanthropic and horrible, and the fantasy of getting a magic remote control or a magic pair of shoes has increasingly revolved around being able to screw with all the little people (who fail to appreciate the greatness of Adam Sandler.)
Even before he decided to lampoon Apache culture in such a heinous fashion that the extras had to walk off his set, Sandler was already making movies much, much worse.
The fact that at least some of these movies have made money has helped spread the idea that there’s a market for shitty wish-fulfillment paired with gross-out humor, and has helped make our entire culture manifestly worse and uglier. In short, you probalby already hated Adam Sandler’s movies, but you didn’t hate them enough.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the neuroscience in 50 First Dates makes no sense, when in fact it’s semi-accurate.
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