In Lieu of a ‘Jack and Jill’ Review I Offer an Adam Sandler Career Study

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Katie Holmes and Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill
Photo: Columbia Pictures

I didn’t see Adam Sandler‘s Jack and Jill, and it wasn’t because Sony didn’t screen it; because they did. Nope, the reason I didn’t see it is because it looked like more of the same Sandler twaddle. A fact that caused me to look back to try and find out the last time I subjected myself to one of Sandler’s so-called “comedies”. As it turns out, Jack and Jill is the fourth one in a row that I’ve skipped.

Jack and Jill was now part of a growing list with Just Go with It (2011), Grown Ups (2010) and Bedtime Stories (2008). Admittedly, I have heard Just Go with It was actually pretty good (though the film’s 20% RottenTomatoes score says otherwise), but I still have no desire to see it.

The last Adam Sandler movie I did see — no, I don’t count him voicing the monkey in Zookeeper — was Funny People in 2009, a film that was decidely not a comedy. Before that I suffered through the likes of The Longest Yard, Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Four films you couldn’t pay me to watch again (an obvious exaggeration because I’m open for negotiations). However, all four films made over $100 million at the domestic box-office.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Sandler’s films, the more they make at the box-office it would appear the worse they are. The only Sandler films I would actually watch again are the films of his that didn’t gross over $50 million, with only a couple of exceptions.

Personally, I thought Punch-Drunk Love was excellent ($17.8 million), Reign Over Me was great ($19.6 million) and I’m in the minority in enjoying Spanglish ($42.7 million), but when it comes to enjoying an Adam Sandler comedy I have to go all the way back to the beginning.

I enjoyed and still enjoy both Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, and perhaps not-so-ironically, neither film cracked $40 million at the box-office. Sandler hadn’t yet found the key to box-office success. Giant penguins and destroying Apollo Creed’s fake wooden limb just wasn’t cutting it for general audiences. The comedy didn’t reach audience satisfaction until The Wedding Singer in 1998 ($80.2 million) and then Sandler exploded with The Waterboy later that year.

Movie posters for Sandler’s Funny People character, George Simmons
Photo: Universal Pictures

The Waterboy is the highest grossing sports comedy ever with $161.4 million, only $3 million ahead of Sandler’s remake of The Longest Yard. In fact, before The Blind Side made over $255 million in 2009, both films were also the highest grossing football movies ever.

Personally, The Waterboy isn’t a complete travesty, and I even like Big Daddy… “Hip… Hip hop… Hiphopanonymous” still cracks me up. But then Little Nicky happened and I avoided Anger Management more out of not wanting to see Jack Nicholson stoop so low than actually avoiding it as a Sandler film, but I can safely say I haven’t been attracted to a Sandler “comedy” since. Interestingly enough, he’s become the very character he mocked in Funny People.

Now, these are just my thoughts on Sandler and why I didn’t go see Jack and Jill, but a few days before writing this article I took the question to the RopeofSilicon Facebook page and wrote, “I want you to tell me why you WILL or why you WON’T go see Adam Sandler’s JACK AND JILL.” Here are a few of the replies:

Matthew Marusak said, “As a longtime Katie Holmes fan, I will see it. Beyond this, I am dreading the experience with every fiber of my being.”

Kevin Giesbrecht said, “It’s really quite simple; because it looks stupid on every level and not enjoyable at all.”

Scott W. Davis said, “Adam Sandler hasn’t done a good movie in years. The films Happy Madison produces for Sandler’s friends are amongst the worst being made. JACK AND JILL looks like yet another low point in a series of diminishing returns.”

Paul Hart said, “He found a formula to make a bunch of money it works, what the last 10 movies of his have done 100 million in [domestic box-office] but I wont see it because… he copped out hes not edgy or that funny anymore because he’s standardizing his movies and just like standardized food is bad for your body his standardized movies are bad for your entertainment…bring back the classic sandler!”

Andrew Pycroft said, “I’d watch it on a plane…”

Chris Malek said, “Won’t see it because I don’t hate myself.”

Jakob Kolness said, “I won’t see it, because if I do, my money will hate me

Ian Puffenberger said, “I won’t be seeing it because 90 minutes of Adam Sandler in drag is about as appealing as having every hair on my body plucked out, one at a time.”

Lisa Juliano said, “His comedy is so stale & the trailer is awful – his time is over!”

George Geanopulos said, “I won’t see it as it will be a waste of time and money. I guess you could say that I’m being unfair, simply going by marketing. But, there are always times when you need to be biased.”

So obviously I’m not alone, but the comment from Scott Davis, when he says, “The films Happy Madison produces for Sandler’s friends are amongst the worst being made,” is interesting. Outside of the Sandler films I’ve already mentioned, here’s a list of Happy Madison‘s latest film productions and a couple of stats on each:

  • Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (2011) – 0% on RT and $2.5m domestically
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) – 33% on RT and $146.3m domestically
  • The House Bunny (2008) – 40% on RT and $48.2m domestically
  • Strange Wilderness (2008) – 0% on RT and $6.5m domestically
  • The Benchwarmers (2006) – 12% on RT and $59.8m domestically
  • Grandma’s Boy (2006) – 18% on RT and $6m domestically

Now, to be fair, all production houses have their hits and misses. But it’s extraordinary to see RottenTomatoes numbers that low, and I personally will say The House Bunny is a film I consider rather funny. However, looking over Adam Sandler’s RottenTomatoes scores, “Fresh” scores aren’t commonplace.

Of the major releases credited to Sandler on RottenTomatoes in which he was a producer, screenwriter or star only four have a “Fresh” rating. Three of those are going to be obvious — Funny People (68%), Reign Over Me (63%) and Punch-Drunk Love (79%). Can you guess which of his actual “comedies” gets that other “Fresh” rating?

I’ll give you a second… It’s been mentioned in this article already… Give up? The Wedding Singer at 67%.

And despite the negative critical reaction, as an actor Sandler’s movies have grossed over $1.9 billion domestically with an average of $82.1 million per. The largest opening weekend for an Adam Sandler film is The Longest Yard at $47.6 million and his highest grossing film to date is Big Daddy at $163.4 million.

This weekend Jack and Jill hits theaters and people are wondering if this will finally be the film that serves as a chink in Sandler’s box-office armor. Wishful thinking if you ask me.

The last time a Sandler live-action “comedy”, that he was the star in, made less than $100 million at the domestic box-office was 11 years ago with Little Nicky, a film largely considered his worst and it still made $39 million, which is still than Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over MeCOMBINED!

Don’t worry Adam, we feel your pain
Photo: Columbia Pictures

So, instead of reviewing Jack and Jill and lining up with everyone else to add it to the chopping block, I will just wait until Sandler makes something that shows he is actually interested in making an audience laugh or, at the very least, he is trying to buck the system rather than just settling in with his own trend.

His early work, such as Billy Madison, was juvenile for certain, but it wasn’t pandering. I could argue it has all the cloying, heartfelt tactics of his recent films, but there was a brat-ish humor to it all, an against the machine humor, Snack Pack humor. Happy Gilmore was thuggish comedy, a golf course tantrum, an authoritarian take down as a wannabe hockey enforcer takes the professional golf tour and bends it over. Not to mention it features an ass-kicking by Bob Barker, Christopher McDonald as one of the most hilarious sports villains ever and Carl Weathers in a role you’d never thought you’d see him in, but he delivers above and beyond.

With Jack and Jill you have Al Pacino slumming and falling in love with Adam Sandler dressed as a woman. It’s “comedy” that writes itself, there’s no imagination there and it’s written all over the marketing.

If you’re interested in seeing it, then have at it. As for me, I can recognize the trend and it tells me the next time Adam Sandler wants to make a serious film I will be there. If he decides to make something that doesn’t come out of a “comedy” screenwriting factory, then maybe I’ll give that a shot too. But as long as he’s dressing up as a woman and working with the most obvious of jokes I’ll pass, I have much better things to do with my time.

Ten Adam Sandler Facts
to Stump Your Friends With

  1. The Waterboy (1998) is the highest grossing sports comedy of all-time ($161.4 million).
  2. Sandler’s remake of The Longest Yard (2005) is the second highest grossing sports comedy of all-time ($158.1 million).
  3. Before The Blind Side made over $255 million in 2009, The Waterboy and The Longest Yard were the #1 and #2 highest grossing football movies ever.
  4. The only one of Adam Sandler’s comedies to score a “Fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes is The Wedding Singer (1998) – 67%.
  5. The last time an Adam Sandler live-action “comedy”, that he was the star in, made less than $100 million at the domestic box-office was Little Nicky (2000) – $39.4 million.
  6. Little Nicky ($39.4 million) made more than Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me combined.
  7. As an actor Sandler’s movies have grossed over $1.9 billion domestically with an average of $82.1 million per.
  8. With $163.4 million, Adam Sandler’s highest grossing film is Big Daddy (1999)
  9. Adjusted for inflation, The Waterboy is Sandler’s highest grossing film ever. [source]
  10. Adam Sandler ranked #41 on Forbes’ most recent Celebrity 100 list, citing earnings of $40 million over the course of the last year.