War Hero/War Criminal: Adam Sandler

April 16, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

How many ballplayers have come and gone from our lives never really living up to their potential? Whether they're a high draft pick that never quite pans out or a player bursting onto the scene with a few All-Star appearances early and then fading into mediocrity, even the most casual baseball fan can probably name a handful of players that showed tons of potential only to underachieve for no real reason.

Over the weekend, I stumbled upon Happy Gilmore on USA. Despite the fact that it was edited for television, I stayed for most of the second half of the movie. I hadn't seen Happy Gilmore in about 4 or 5 years, yet I still found myself quoting along and laughing my ass off. As much as I was enjoying reliving a movie I had seen dozens of times as a teenager, I was disappointed that Adam Sandler hadn't done anything worth watching in many years.

It takes a special person to be considered both a War Hero and a War Criminal here at the Saloon, but Adam Sandler fits the bill perfectly. Let's take a look at his career.

The SNL Years
Adam Sandler was a fantastic cast member on Saturday Night Live and the environment fit him well. Sandler was always able to come up with funny bits that fit perfectly into 5-6 minute sketches and were over before they got too annoying. Who doesn't have fond memories of Sandler covering the week's events as Operaman, or dressing up as a girl in those GAP sketches? One of my all time favorite SNL sketches was Canteen Boy with Sandler and Alec Baldwin. I would say that Adam Sandler's Best Of SNL DVD ranks up there alongside the best of anyone else's.

Also, if you didn't own either They're All Gonna Laugh At You or What The Hell Happened To Me? then I don't even want to know you.

Move To The Big Screen
Sandler really started to shine when he left SNL and made the jump to the big screen. After smaller roles in Coneheads and Airheads, the pinnacle of Adam Sandler was reached in the back to back hits Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. I could recap these movies, but I think if you're reading this right now, chances are you've seen both of these movies several times. Who doesn't remember that friends listen to Endless Love in the dark or that Shooter McGavin eats pieces of shit for breakfast? I learned many things from these movies, like October is Nudie Magazine Day, eating 3 Cold Cut Combos a day can keep you strong and that Ms. Lippy's car (looks around suspiciously) is green. I dare you to watch either of these movies and not quote them over the next few days at work.

Also coming out around the same time was the underrated Bulletproof, making Sandler and one of the Wayans (I can't be bothered with looking up which one it was) the latest biracial duo to crack into the buddy cop-ish movie genre. I don't remember a whole lot about this movie, but I remember liking it. It was definitely a lot better than other "black guy meets white guy and forms an unlikely friendship" movies of the time, such as Money Talks (Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker) and Nothing To Lose (Tim Robbins and Marin Lawrence).

And then Sandler became the Brad Lidge to comedy's Albert Pujols. Things got bad. Fast.

The Wedding Singer Debacle
I could write an entire piece on The Wedding Singer being a War Criminal of the highest order. Here's the top 3 things I hated most about this movie:
  1. Drew Barrymore. Terrible. F.
  2. The fact that there were about 7 soundtracks that came out for this movie. Most of these songs weren't even that good the first time they came around. Which brings me to my next point...
  3. Here's the single worst thing about The Wedding Singer: it brought back the 80's. Sure, certain things about the 80's were always cool, such as GI Joe, NES and Skip-It. But right after The Wedding Singer came out, the 80's officially "came back" in a very annoying way. I Love The 80's wasn't too bad, but all of the sudden the 80's were not only cool again, but in your face and trendy in the worst way. Girls started walking around wearing shirts that said "Frankie Says Relax" on them. Everyone says that they've loved The Cure and Depeche Mode from the very beginning. Having an original Nintendo system was such a status symbol that their prices on eBay reached ridiculous levels. Did you hate the recent reboot of Knight Rider? Were you scarred for life by the reality show about the Two Corey's? Sick of the whole 80's comeback in general? It all started with The Wedding Singer.

It's All Downhill From Here...

I don't have to go into much detail about the stinkbombs Sandler dropped after the Wedding Singer when he switched from doing edgier PG-13 comedies to more teen friendly PG-13 projects. Just take a look at the "Murderer's Row" that came between 1998 and now:

The Waterboy
Big Daddy
Little Nicky
Mr. Deeds
Eight Crazy Nights
Anger Management
50 First Dates
The Longest Yard
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry

I just threw up 6 times.

Now sandwiched into those movies were performances in Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me that were pretty well received. But you have to wonder if they only seem like good acting jobs just because it's not Sandler doing his usual shtick. In the case of Punch Drunk Love, for which Sandler received his only Golden Globe nomination, it could have easily been just the combination of a phenomenal director and a great script.

Sandler's upcoming You Don't Mess With The Zohan doesn't look like it's going to be the movie to bring Sandler back to stardom.

What Went Wrong?
Something I've noticed about Adam Sandler is that a lot of his movies are only as good as the supporting cast he has. Take a look at Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. Those movies were stacked with comedic talent, mostly from Sandler's SNL days. You can't really go wrong when you include Kevin Nealon, Chris Farley, Norm MacDonald, Bob Barker, Carl Weathers and Bradley Whitford in your movies.

Now look at all the movies that came after Billy Madison. That's when Sandler stopped putting talented comic actors in his movies and started sticking the same random unfunny dudes in each of his movies, like this guy...

...and this guy...

and whoever this guy is.

We can only hope that Sandler gets back to more dick and fart jokes and moves away from the more teen-oriented projects that he's been involved in (same with Will Ferrell). I really think that the problem is Sandler himself. If he got involved in an R-rated comedy, i think he could return to glory. Hell, most of his buddies were in the 2005 movie Grandma's Boy, and it was funny as hell. Let's hope Sandler takes a cue from that.

Until then, all we can do is pop in the occasional DVD of Happy Gilmore and laugh at the old man calling the shit "poop".