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Entries in Adam Sandler (11)

Friday
Jun152012

That's My Boy

Someone needs to put on an intervention for Adam Sandler. The man is so talented and has proven that talent through some amazing performances in dramas like Reign Over Me, Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People, yet he constantly relegates himself to insipid tripe like this week’s That’s My Boy. I suppose one could make the argument that it’s better than his last few movies, but he set the bar so low after Grown Ups and Jack and Jill that he had nowhere to go but up, so that’s hardly saying anything.

Back in the mid-80’s, Donny (played at this time by Justin Weaver) got involved with one of his teachers, the sexy Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). Eventually, they were caught and Ms. McGarricle was thrown in jail while Donny became famous. Before their relationship ended, however, Donny got Ms. McGarricle pregnant and because she was about to serve 30 years in prison, Donny was tasked with bringing up the kid, whom he named Han Solo (Andy Samberg). When Han Solo was 18, however, he left and never looked back. Now years later and with the new name of Todd, he is about to be married to the beautiful Jamie (Leighton Meester). He has become hugely successful while Donny (now played by Adam Sandler) has squandered his fortune and is in danger of heading to jail if he can’t pay $43,000 in back taxes. In an effort to get that money, Donny shows up mere days before his kid’s wedding, which is certain to make an otherwise exciting time an anxiety filled nightmare.

As dreadful as That’s My Boy is, its opening isn’t bad. It’s silly, sexy and has one hilarious joke mocking the idea that a young boy who has sex with his insanely attractive teacher is somehow a “victim.” Turn the sexes around and that may be the case, but any male who has gotten through school will tell you of that one teacher they had the hots for, the one they fantasized about during class and would have done anything to mess around with. Parodying the scornful attitude such an event elicits in our society, the film treats Donny like a king, the one who lived out every boy’s dream. While the women condemn the action, the men high five each other over how great they perceive it to be. As a man who had a few attractive teachers in his day, I feel I have the authority to comment on these kids who are lucky enough to bed them. They’re not victims. They’re awesome.

Unfortunately, that bit is the only one that works in That’s My Boy. Other laughs are few and far between, maybe one for every half hour, so at an entirely too long running time of two hours, that’s about four laughs total. The film is full of scatological, masturbatory humor (including an embarrassing scene where Sandler uses Jamie’s grandmother’s picture as inspiration) and we once again have to listen to Sandler speak in a goofy, grating voice. When will he realize it’s not how you speak, but how you deliver the lines that makes what you’re doing funny? Ever since 1998’s The Waterboy (an undeserving hit if there ever was one), Sandler has insisted on crafting a silly voice for many of his roles. Rarely (if ever) has it been funny; this movie doesn’t change that.

Perhaps Sandler and the filmmakers simply forgot what year it was. Sandler tries to hearken back to his “silly voice” days (even predating The Waterboy with his work on Saturday Night Live), while writer David Caspe references pop culture phenomenon that died out over a decade ago, including the “Whassup?” Budweiser beer commercials and the Ricky Martin singles, “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “She Bangs.” This movie is so outdated that its younger target audience probably won’t even get many of its references, like the one to the late 70’s/early 80’s sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes (yes, it has that line).

But as I’ve said before, even the least funny comedies can be good if they offer up a decent story with likable characters, but That’s My Boy doesn’t muster up much of anything, at least nothing that can be considered good. The characters are either despicable or annoying (usually both) and they give us no reason to care. Donny, for example, was such a terrible father that he forced Todd at a very young age to get a tattoo that encompassed his whole back (and is now distorted thanks to his growth) and he turned him into a diabetic by allowing him to eat candy and cake for breakfast every day. Todd should have been taken away by Child Protective Services at a very young age. Now that he’s older and can look back, Todd hates his father and we understand because we hate him too. Why would we want them to reconcile?

That’s My Boy fails on nearly every level, only conjuring up a few laughs here and there while Sandler pockets another huge paycheck for intellectually crippling our society. I’m sure he’s a great guy and I know he has talent, but the characters he chooses to play are terrible and don’t allow him to showcase it. Despite my frustration, his last few movies sadden me more than they anger. Sandler is capable of so much more and he either doesn’t know it or doesn’t care. Regardless, That’s My Boy is neither funny nor heartfelt and it’s absolutely not worth seeing.

That’s My Boy receives 1/5

Friday
Nov112011

Jack and Jill

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Adam Sandler is a great actor. You need look no further than his various dramatic endeavors to see that. Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and even Funny People all showcased how terrific he can be when forced to do something other than make silly faces and talk in an annoying voice. That’s why it’s so disheartening to see him star in Jack and Jill, a shockingly bad, heinously unfunny and pathetically witless film with close to zero redeeming factors. Jack and Jill is the absolute worst thing Sandler has ever been involved in and he starred in Grown Ups, Mr. Deeds and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, so that’s really saying something.

The plot revolves around Jack (Adam Sandler), a successful advertising executive in Los Angeles who is looking forward to taking his kids on their first ever cruise after the holidays. Unfortunately, his twin sister, Jill (also Adam Sandler), is on her way to visit and she’s not so easy to get rid of. Of course, this leads Jack and Jill into a series of supposedly “wacky” situations and mishaps, though the only two mildly humorous parts in the whole thing are in the trailer. The rest of it is a vacuous wasteland where laughs are delivered like food at a Chick-fil-A on a Sunday.

Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh because Al Pacino, in one of the most interesting career choices he’s ever made, is fun to watch. He plays himself in the movie and breaks free from his typical roles where drama always comes first. Here, he is at his silliest and you can’t help but admire his willingness to play along with such absurdity while mocking his own celebrity and career. If only he had been in a movie that actually took advantage of his dedication. Instead of clever humor, we are shown scene after scene of slapstick shenanigans and shameless potty humor. Despite Pacino’s presence, Jack and Jill is for those who still think artificial fart sounds are funny. If that’s not you, then congratulations! You’re too mature for this movie.

Still, even the least humorous comedies can survive with strong characters, but like many of Sandler’s other movies, the characters are unlikable, self centered and accompanied by some type of annoying vocal treatment (Bobby Boucher has nothing on Jill). Jack is played as a family man, but his love only goes as far as his wife and kids. His sister, on the other hand, he loathes. He dreads her visit, urges her to leave, calls her a number of hurtful names and even tells her in the most sarcastic and mean spirited way possible that she makes those around her uncomfortable. He’s a terrible brother that you come to hate, yet you can’t really blame him for any of his actions. It would be a test of wills for anyone to spend any amount of time with Jill, a statement I feel comfortable making seeing as how the short hour and a half I spent watching this made me wish for any type of debilitating illness to hit so I would have an excuse to leave the theater. She’s loud, obnoxious and beyond aggravating. She’s one of the most annoying characters in the movies this year.

Of course, you’re supposed to come to like both of them by the end of the movie—you learn of Jill’s hardships and watch as Jack redeems himself—but such a tired formula doesn’t work anymore unless something special is done with it. As should be plainly obvious by now, there’s nothing special about Jack and Jill. A better ending would have seen Jack falling down a hill (preferably a big one) and Jill tumbling after.

Jack and Jill receives 0/5

Friday
Sep092011

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star looked dreadful. The concept, the trailers and the title character named after his gigantic front teeth promised a worst of the year type of event, but, much to my surprise, it’s not. It’s still a bad movie that I can’t recommend, but the fact that I only partially hated it rather than completely should be seen as a win for Happy Madison Productions.

The story is simple. Bucky (Nick Swardson, who co-wrote the script with Adam Sandler) is a small town Iowa boy who has never had a sexual experience. After discovering that his parents were big porn stars back in the day, he decides to travel to LA and become his own star in nude films. He’s not someone you would expect to be in porn, but his tiny, ahem, asset ends up giving hope to those who watch him. The guys become more confident in their size and the women become happy with what they have. No matter how pathetic their boyfriends are, at least they’re better (and bigger) than Bucky.

As if it needs to be stated after that plot synopsis, Bucky Larson is stupid. There’s no getting around it and no reason to. This movie embraces its inanity, fully aware of what it is. This is seen in one particularly humorous bit where Bucky, having just arrived in LA, buys a water bottle shaped like the Oscar statue and carries it around, framed front and center by the camera. It knows it’s not going to win any awards and mocks itself with this simple shot. Still, moments like this are few and far between; most of the humor is unfunny and juvenile. When the first gag in the movie involves a redneck smearing peanut butter on his testicles for his goats to lick off, you know what you’re about to see is going to be anything but sophisticated.

Much of the supposed humor develops from Bucky’s looks and the verbal abuse he takes from those around him—his buck teeth and bowl haircut open him up to a host of cruelty. Even the most inconsequential side characters who pop up for mere seconds take verbal swings at Bucky, making this one of the most mean spirited movies to be released in some time. The problem is we come to like Bucky. He’s a simpleton, sure, and his innocent ignorance can prove grating, but he’s too happy to hate. His spirits remain high even when things aren’t going his way and when they do, success doesn’t go to his head. He has his priorities straight.

The main priority in question is Kathy (Christina Ricci), a pretty waitress who seems to look past his looks and like him more for what’s on the inside. Ricci oozes loveliness and it’s thanks to her the movie works as well as it does. For what it’s worth, the romance is actually kind of sweet, though unrealistic, and despite following a common and predictable narrative trajectory, the ending is satisfying.

I feel like I’ve praised Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star more than some movies I recommend, but that’s only because this could have been so much worse. It’s still not worth seeing (and with the constant talk of masturbation and dialogue like “twang your wang,” why would you want to?), but it’s not all terrible either. It actually has some heart and an IQ level that isn’t in the negatives. Shocking, I know.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star receives 1.5/5

Friday
Jul082011

Zookeeper

I have to imagine Kevin James is a likable fellow. He strikes me as the type of person who, if approached on the street, wouldn’t mind chatting with fans, signing autographs and taking a few pictures. However, that affableness doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s made us sit through some of the trashiest, most foul, unwatchable pieces of garbage to come out in recent years. While he may be a nice guy in real life, he has never impressed in his films, which are almost always heavy-laden with physical comedy, an area where his abilities rest somewhere between slight and non-existent. He’s the type of comedian we’re supposed to laugh at simply because of his large visage, but laughing at someone’s weight is comedy of the shallowest order. James has starred in such abominations as Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups and The Dilemma, but, if it can be believed, his newest film, Zookeeper, is his worst yet.

James plays Griffin, a zookeeper who is beloved by his animals. Five years prior, he popped the question to then-girlfriend, Stephanie, played by Leslie Bibb, but she shot him down because she was embarrassed by his occupation. Now, she has returned and Griffin once again finds himself falling for her. After overhearing a conversation one night, the animals learn that Griffin may be leaving the zoo. They’re none too happy with this news—besides, he’s the best zookeeper they’ve ever had—so they divulge their secret to him: they can talk. In an attempt to keep him around, they teach him mating techniques so he can snag the girl of his dreams without having to give up his job.

It would be easy to say that Zookeeper is absurd. Any movie with talking animals is, but as a colleague of mine pointed out, it’s weirder than usual and it gets weirder as it goes on. It’s strange enough watching James walk like a bear and learn to attract his mate with urine, but when the gorilla ends up at T.G.I. Friday’s, buys drinks for some cute ladies and ends up courting one of them, the film has clearly gone overboard. If anything can be said for it, Zookeeper doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is.

The problem is that what it is is a movie so desperate for laughs, it quickly resorts to tired slapstick and gross-out humor. In the first ten minutes alone, you’ll see Griffin fall over at least three times, break a tree limb that can’t carry his weight, get shot twice with porcupine quills and get splashed in the face with a lioness’s saliva. I suppose I should be grateful nobody gets covered in feces, especially given the nature of these types of films, but not throwing crap on someone comes off as faint praise for a movie with metaphorical smears all over it.

Zookeeper is juvenile, inane and utterly devoid of anything even remotely interesting, sure, but it’s surprisingly offensive as well, with traces of mild sexism and veiled homophobia throughout. While certainly minute in the big scheme of things, their diminutive nature makes them no less distasteful. For an entire scene, we watch as Griffin insults Stephanie and orders her to do things for him, playing up verbal abuse towards women as funny. Though not funny in any context, it’s especially shocking here given its PG rating and marketing towards children.

The only person treated with respect in the film is the zoo vet, played by Rosario Dawson, but even she is trapped in the archetypal “plain before pretty” role that has been outdated since Freddie Prinze Jr. fell for Rachael Leigh Cook in 1999’s She’s All That. It’s a shame because the filmmakers have gathered a great supporting voice cast that includes Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Maya Rudolph and Don Rickles, yet they are all squandered here, forced to recite insipid lines of dialogue about having thumbs and throwing poo. Frankly, it’s an embarrassing farce. Zookeeper is torturous, and that’s enough to make it one of the most unwatchable movies to be released this year.

Zookeeper receives 0.5/5

Friday
Feb112011

Just Go With It

I’ve come to terms with Hollywood having run out of ideas. With years of examples to back it up, it’s fairly easy to make the claim that the bigwigs at the major film studios have no idea what else to do. So, to compensate, they release remakes, not because they have a fresh idea on the story or think they can improve on the original, but because they know a movie with a recognizable name will sell tickets. While I’m not flat out opposed to remakes, I believe the classics should be left alone. If you’re going to remake a movie, make it one that had an interesting idea or a lot of potential, but failed to live up to it, a modern update that could indeed be better than the original. Cactus Flower, which is now being remade as Just Go With It, falls somewhere in the middle of “classic” and “worth an update.” It's a classic only in the sense that it’s old, not that it’s considered one of the best films of all time, but it’s still wonderful, full of heart and whimsy and multi-dimensional characters you can care about. This 2011 update doesn’t improve on it, but it differs enough to stand apart from it and, although it’s a wildly erratic film in terms of quality, it’s watchable.

The story follows Danny (Adam Sandler), a plastic surgeon who pretends to be married to pick up women. His manufactured sob stories about his neglectful “wife” tug at the heartstrings of the women who listen, which allows him to make his way into their beds. However, at a party one day, he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a stunning girl who instantly smites him, but when she stumbles onto his ring, she mistakes him as a married man. Instead of telling her the truth, he lies to her and creates a whirlwind of deceit. When he tells her he is divorcing his made up wife, Palmer insists on meeting her, so he coaxes his secretary, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), into pretending to playing his soon-to-be ex. But when Palmer overhears Katherine talking to her kids on the phone, she assumes they are Danny’s as well, so the lie spreads further, which leads Danny to realize something about himself.

Some remakes can be directly compared to their originals, but in the case of Just Go With It and Cactus Flower, the two share only certain aspects. Aside from the initial concept, they each go down fairly separate paths. What they share in common is that the setup is caused by a bad decision, to not come clean to their girls. The differences from here on out are vast, but none more so than the much more excessive and less believable nature of Just Go With It. The situations and conflicts that arise in this movie are brought on by extreme and incredibly unlikely coincidences, like when Katherine runs into her nemesis, Devlin (Nicole Kidman), while in Hawaii pretending to be Danny’s wife, thus making the ruse trickier to pull off. Cactus Flower may not have been perfect, but when characters bumped into each other, it made sense. The rationale behind their actions was indicative of their personalities, so even as you imagined how differently you would have handled the situation, you understood why they acted as they did.

But to criticize the believability factor in a movie like this is frivolous. It’s a comedy, after all, and the real level of its quality is measured in how many laughs it produces, which is precisely what makes Just Go With It so difficult to discuss. It’s a movie I liked one minute and didn’t like the next. It was like my opinion was riding a Ferris wheel, ascending to the highest of peaks before descending to the lowest of lows. There are a surprising amount of laugh out loud moments (especially given the poor quality of other Happy Madison productions like Grown Ups and Paul Blart: Mall Cop), but it also gets into funks. Jokes are stretched too thin (the name “Devlin” as slang for going to the bathroom is referenced no less than seven times), mean spiritedness seeps through and slapstick humor pervades the movie.

When the film reaches its back half, it goes completely overboard with idiotic nonsense—what relevance performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a sheep has to the overall picture I haven’t the slightest clue—but the actors are game and I enjoyed the chemistry between all of the characters, including the two children, played by Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck, who are both terrific and squeeze out some of the film’s biggest laughs. Sandler still works better as a dramatic actor (as seen in movies like Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me) and struggles to hold himself together in the funnier moments, shedding conspicuous smiles when he should be straight faced, but there’s still charm to Just Go With It. It’s slight, but it’s there and you won’t blame yourself for having a look.

Just Go With It receives 2.5/5