Adam Sandler is one of the most perplexing and frustrating performers in Hollywood. He’s a man who is better known for creating an array of pretty awful comedy movies, mainly in conjunction with the streaming service Netflix. But, he’s also an exceptionally talented actor who, when he sinks his teeth into more serious material, is capable of something truly special.
For every Uncut Gems, there are about five terrible straight to streaming efforts in Sandler’s filmography. For every Punch-Drunk Love, there is a Jack and Jill lurking around the corner, ready to rot your brains. So, why does Sandler insist on churning out utter rubbish year after year, when he’s proven on multiple occasions that he’s actually an incredible dramatic actor?
Well, like most people, Adam Sandler probably likes to be given money. His Netflix movies are consistently popular on the platform, racking up huge viewing figures, which is always beneficial to those involved. But, there’s more to life than numbers, so we’re begging you Adam, please stick to making good movies.
I have to say, Adam Sandler, on a bad day, is possibly my least favourite actor. Ever since he broke through in the ‘90s, his brand of loud, brash, dumb comedy has never really been my cup of tea. Still, I don’t hate The Waterboy, there’s worse movies out there than Big Daddy, and Happy Gilmore is entertaining enough.
Moving into the 2000s though, Sandler really cranked it up a notch. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is simply unwatchable. The Grown Ups movies are offensive to all the senses. And, while Jack and Jill may have given us the iconic Al Pacino Dunkaccino song, that film is an actual hate crime against cinema.
On the flip-side of this, Sandler has worked with some amazing directors in his time and produced top-drawer performances along the way. Tucked away in his list of credits are collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson, The Safdie Brothers, and Noah Baumbach, all of which led to great things for all involved.
In 2002, Sandler played the lead role in the drama movie Punch-Drunk Love. As Barry Egan, we saw a side to Sandler we had never seen before. There is a gentle awkwardness to his performance here, as Sandler imbues his character with an unusually reserved and restrained energy, and it’s a joy to behold.
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Respectable films like Anger Management, Click, and Funny People would follow in the aftermath of Sandler’s team up with Paul Thomas Anderson, further showcasing his ability to pick a strong project and deliver an engaging performance. However, you have to fast forward a whole 15 years before you find the actor’s next, genuine high-quality role.
Funnily enough, joining forces with Netflix would prove to be the right move this time, as Sandler dived into a supporting role in Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories in 2017. Opposite the likes of Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman, Sandler shines as the problematic black sheep of the family, who wears his heart on his sleeve and speaks before he thinks.
Again, Sandler offered something different to his usual in-your-face, crude humour, instead delivering a nuanced character with an emotional journey and most importantly, a captivating performance underpinning it all.
To come off the back of (deservedly) critically-panned movies like Pixels and The Ridiculous 6, and then serve up something so heartfelt and impactful, further strengthens the theory that deep down, Sandler is perhaps one of the most talented men in Hollywood. But only when he wants to be.
Thankfully, we had to wait less than two years to see him flex his chops once more, in the gritty, anxiety-inducing thriller movie Uncut Gems. Sandler is almost unrecognisable as Howard Ratner. Not necessarily in a physical sense, though the little round glasses, goatee beard, and vibrant vintage attire do help this most transformative process.
When Adam Sandler took on the lead role in The Safdie Brothers’ tension-filled movie, he gave the performance of a lifetime. Sure, Howard is a bundle of chaotic energy who does stupid things and thinks he’s funny, but this is far from the lowest form of comedy, this is dramatic acting of the highest order.
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The film, and in particular Sandler’s performance, would go on to pick up critical praise across the board, and the actor even collected a whole host of personal accolades during the 2019 awards season thanks to the role.
Which begs the question, surely he would rather do these more serious roles and garner recognition as a talented performer, than be the butt of the joke every time Netflix comes knocking with their cheque book? Money talks sadly, and Sandler’s whole brand is based on the low-brow humour that allowed him to conquer Hollywood way back when.
But, there is hope. His latest movie Hustle – another collaboration with Netflix – has been getting a lot of positive buzz upon its release on the streaming platform. His next project, Spaceman, will see him star opposite the likes of Paul Dano and Carey Mulligan, in an adventure movie which seemingly doesn’t have a drop of comedy in sight.
Nevertheless, Murder Mystery 2 is also on its way, too. Maybe bad Adam Sandler movies are inevitable, and we just need to enjoy the good stuff when it comes along.