I haven’t come here to bury Sandler nor I have I written this to praise him. This is not a repeat of last year’s reprimand of Johnny Depp for making so many bad movies in a row, nor is this a resurrection or update of The Career Analyst I did of Sandler years back. (Which reminds me that one of these days, I should try to bring that back as well.)
No, this is my honest viewpoint of why Adam Sandler has gotten himself to the point where he has almost zero film critics on his side anymore after years of subjecting them to movies that range from mediocre to bad all the way down to truly awful and unwatchable pieces of crap.
As you probably know, Sandler’s latest comedy Blended was released this past weekend and it pretty much tanked, grossing less than $20 million over the extended Memorial Day holiday, a time when movies tend to do big business. Just for some perspective, that was less in four days than Sandler’s Jack and Jill made in three days, and it may struggle to reach $40 million domestically. There was a time not that long ago when an Adam Sandler movie could make that amount regularly over a movie’s opening weekend. So what happened?
The thing is that Blended isn’t a terrible movie and I actually think a lot of people may actually enjoy it, if only to see Sandler and Barrymore–two actors who have genuine chemistry–back on screen together. The A- CinemaScore the movie received from the few people who did go see it pretty much confirms that it’s not nearly as bad as the 15% Rotten it received on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not even the lowest rating Sandler has received for one of his movies, as you can see by looking a his overall ratings page – the only even remotely “Fresh” movies that Sandler has on his roster are the ones where he took more dramatic turns.
That’s actually probably one of the most ironic aspects of Sandler’s relationship with critics–the fact that he’s a comedian who has been doing comedy for years, who has gotten what he does down to a science–I most certainly won’t use the word “art”–and yet, critics almost unanimously hate his humor with such vehemence, but then give him props as a dramatic actor. How crazy is that?
Now I have not seen some of Sandler’s recent movies–I “missed” Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy and Grown Ups 2 and if they’re ever shown on cable, it’s not any of the channels that I regularly watch–but sometimes, one does have to wonder if film critics who clearly don’t like Sandler are going into these movies ready to pan or trash whatever he does before even seeing the movie.
Like I said in my own review, Blended isn’t perfect, but I went into the movie trying to find things to like about it rather than just going in with my claws out ready to pounce. And yet, it was really obvious to me that Sandler was barely even trying with the movie, not just with his performance in the movie but also with some of the ideas that seemed recycled from previous movies. Seeing him with Drew Barrymore definitely made the movie better than it might have been and there were a few (surprisingly) solid subplots, but it was hard not to walk away from it thinking, “There’s nothing new to see here.” Other film critics weren’t so kind, using the movie to make personal attacks on Sandler – accusing him of only hiring his “yes man” friends (which is mostly true) and worse.
Here are a few samples of really over-the-top negative quotes made towards the movie and Sandler:
Alonso Duralde: “I felt like it was crushing the soul out of me.”
Kyle Smith: “Sandler hates himself, and in ‘Blended’ he invites us to join him.”
Christopher Campbell: “The sort of cinematic stain we’ve come to associate with Sandler, yet even worse than fits his reputation.”
Also will have to give a shout-out to my pals at the podcast “Popcorn and Prosecco” who went on a nice rant about Sandler’s laziness that you can watch here.
And this back-handed (yet close-fisted) “compliment” from Willie Waffle:
“You have to admit it is not half as horrendous as some of his other movies.”
Right, exactly! Even not having seen some of those movies I mentioned earlier, I happen to loathe whenever Sandler does one of his “funny characters” like the ones in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Little Nicky, etc., but in this one he’s just playing the same normal “every day guy” he’s played in other movies i.e. he’s just being lazy and not trying very hard. Is that a good enough reason to trash everything about the movie, when it’s admittedly “not as bad as his other movies”?
It’s obvious, at least to me, that few film critics will go into an Adam Sandler comedy expecting the worst and even fewer want to be the one that actually says “Hey, you know what? This movie isn’t as bad as it looks.” As offensive as the movie can be to some demographics i.e. those who probably never would go see an Adam Sandler movie anyway, Blended is definitely not as bad as it looks. Although the more I think about the movie… I’m starting to think that maybe it’s me and I was just too nice to the movie. (I was audibly groaning by the third time Terry Crews showed up to perform a musical number.)
That being as it may, it’s doubtful film critics will ever give an Adam Sandler movie a fair chance unless he’s being directed by a PT Anderson or Judd Apatow. At least his next few projects are working with respected filmmakers like Tom (The Visitor) McCarthy’s The Cobbler and Jason Reitman’s next movie Men, Woman and Children, both of which have wrapped and possibly will be seen at festivals later this year.
Maybe doing those movies were Sandler’s own answer to realizing he probably has become burnt out and is phoning his performances in a bit too much and needed to work with some filmmakers who could challenge him. But at this point, will film critics give either of those movies a chance with Sandler playing such a prominent role in them? That Rotten Tomatoes overview I posted above would make one thing that some form of critical double standard will be in full effect for those movies, but that makes little sense considering how many of the attacks on Blended were personal ones on Sandler.
Whether you’re an Adam Sandler fan or not, feel free to chime in on a.) Whether you saw Sandler’s Blended this past weekend, b.) Why or why not? and c.) Whether or not you agree with any of my thoughts on Sandler’s laziness and whether he’s destroyed his chances of ever getting a fair review from critics because of it.