The Do-Over

the do over

It’s Friday night, I’m watching The Do-Over – on the day of its Netflix release, and eating leftover pizza. It’s not the ideal situation, in life, but it’s not dissimilar to the sad state of the two main characters in this Adam Sandler film, the second in a four picture deal between the actor and the streaming site. Sandler stars with frequent collaborator David Spade as two longtime friends who are dissatisfied with their current lot and who try to start anew by faking their deaths. A marked improvement on his previous effort, the mind-numbing westerns pastiche that is The Ridiculous 6, this isn’t exactly atonement for previous crimes against filmmaking, but it does achieve a surprisingly heartfelt ending.

That’s not to say The Do-Over goes light on the raunchiness that tends to punctuate Sandler’s movies. There’s plenty of lad humor, including a scene involving Luis Guzmán and schweddy balls that you’ll want to forget. The movie also does its best to fill its quota of homophobic boy’s club jokes (think dildos and jumper cables). Sandler’s not exactly pioneering or progressive when it comes to his comedic sensibilities, and a couple suggestive scenes involving a burly biker named Dakota and a limber German hitman do what they must to fulfill certain clichés.

Still, the movie aims beyond a strictly frat crowd. It begins at a 25th high school reunion where Charlie (Spade) and Max (Sandler) reconnect and use the opportunity to commiserate over their unrealized teenage dreams. Despite marrying the prom queen, who had twins with and then divorced their skeezy classmate (an unrecognizable Sean Astin), Charlie has not literally or figuratively gone anywhere. His greatest adventure remains the one time he saw his friend’s mother naked in the shower. Meanwhile, Max is an FBI agent, at least that’s how he introduces himself, in desperate need of a jolt in life. When a relaxing day out on a yacht ends with a giant bang, both guys decide to turn things around.

At first their new identities, stolen from a couple of unclaimed corpses, get them the kind of life middle aged men dream about. It’s all fast cars, fancy houses, and fine women, in Puerto Rico no less. But soon word gets around that Charlie and Max’s alter egos, Dr. Ronald Fishman and Butch Ryder, who had been testing a successful cancer drug, are back from the dead, and that upsets quite a few people. It’s a lot of speed racing and dodging bullets from there. As the two try to throw off assassins and unravel the mysteries behind their new identities, they also find themselves in the company of Dr. Fishman’s gorgeous young widow, Heather (Paula Patton).

It’s not that satisfying as far as the women’s roles go. In an unsettling case of white guy wish fulfillment, a cloyingly sweet Patton gets paired with Spade, or Ned Flanders in human form. Kathryn Hahn also makes an appearance as a wig-wearing psycho ex who stalks Max down every dark corridor. The ending pays off, however, in ways that shouldn’t have fooled me but did. Though the two actresses engage in a needlessly slow motion fight scene that serves men’s fantasies more than it does notions of female strength, both subvert expectations in ways that ease some frustrations about plot and character.

Released: 2016
Prod: Adam Sandler, Kevin Grady
Dir: Steven Brill
Writer: Kevin Barnett, Chris Pappas
Cast: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Paula Patton, Kathryn Hahn, Nick Swardson, Matt Walsh, Renee Taylor, Sean Astin, Natasha Leggero, Luis Guzmán, Catherine Bell, Jackie Sandler, Michael Chiklis, Torsten Voges, Stan Ellsworth
Time: 108 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016