Gaming | Film | TV
Gaming | Film | TV

Saving Sandler: Why real directors keep trying to resurrect the comedian’s career

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Now edging 50, comedy heretic Adam Sandler has again teamed up with filmmakers looking to tap into his ‘other side’.

No matter how ridiculously inept and lazy the films of Adam Sandler turn out to be, it seems quality directors cannot or will not write him off as just another failed SNL alumni. Despite the run of awful, awful movies Sandler has spat out over his now decades-long career, there is most definitely a glimmer of something deeper and more soulful in his acting. When he allows it to be there, that is.

There is most definitely a glimmer of something deeper and more soulful in Sandler’s acting. When he allows it to be there, that is

For all the Grown Ups and all the Drew Barrymore schlock rom-coms and all the dumb movies used as excuses for vacations, Adam Sandler has in the past proved he has the talent to channel that tightly-wound, feverish comedy of his into darker roles, more daring roles, infinitely more fascinating roles than in the money grabs he sleepwalks through. Good directors, even one of the greatest of all directors, have worked to get something more out of Sandler, because they see the potential in his screen presence. And now, after an extended hiatus from anything worth watching, it appears Sandler is giving acting a little more effort once again.

After a solid decade of juvenile comedies like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and Big Daddy – all of which have their merits as inane laughers – Sandler teamed up with the great Paul Thomas Anderson to uncover the photographic negative of his comedy. The anger and rage Sandler had played for laughs in his earlier films was exposed as something darker and more sinister in Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. Sandler’s performance was layered beyond anything he had tried or shown before, but this wasn’t some sort of career renaissance for Sandler – it was merely a tease as to where his true talent could take him.

While Sandler returned to goofball comedies, he also tried his hand at straight drama a couple more times. James L Brooks’s Spanglish was a halfhearted attempt at dramedy, but the Mike Binder film Reign Over Me was something completely different for the actor. Reign Over Me starred Sandler as a man who had lost his family in 9/11, and Sandler fell deep into despair for his role. While the film is uneven, the performance from Sandler was another step in the right direction.


And then, it seems, the bottom fell out of Sandler’s desire to stretch his abilities. From Reign Over Me onward, Sandler backtracked into laziness, with movies like You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Grown Ups, and the unwatchable Just Go with It. In 2009 Sandler went meta, working with Judd Apatow in Funny People, a big mess of a film where he played an actor who stars in big, stupid movies – it was an attempt once again to tap into that elusive ‘other side’, but it mostly fell flat.

Maybe it is time for Sandler to change his tune and put forth some effort. After all, for how long can a 40-something play a child?

As bad as the early Sandler comedies were, the most recent ones have only deteriorated further. Think about That’s My Boy, Grown Ups 2 (2!), and Blended, all disastrous films. And yet it appears that real, true directors are still trying to get something new and fresh out of Adam Sandler. On the horizon is Thomas McCarthy’s The Cobbler, but next up is yet another chance for Sandler to redirect his career, with the Jason Reitman film Men, Women & Children. The picture is an ensemble drama dissecting our current disconnect from one another, and our addiction to electronics. The trailer, appropriately wordless, offers in itself a fascinating portrait of current America, and gives us a look at Sandler’s middle-aged father searching for love in some unseemly places.

Film fans should have faith in directors like Reitman and McCarthy; they should also have faith in Sandler when he tries. He’s better than those lifeless comedies – here’s to hoping Sandler is turning that all elusive corner in his career. His children – who have certainly played a part in his career decisions – are older now, so maybe it is finally time for Adam Sandler to change his tune and put forth some effort in his middle age. After all, for how long can a 40-something play a child?


Read more: Shaking the Hollywood typecast


Featured image: Paramount

Inset image: New Line Cinema


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