Adam Sandler

That’s My Boy (2012)

The movie begins with an affair between a junior high math teacher (Eva Amurri Martino) and her student. They are discovered bonking at a school assembly, she gets pregnant and a thirty year prison sentence, and he cashes in on his fame as the kid who lived out “the ultimate teenage boy’s fantasy.”

It’s at this point you should really just stop and turn your attention towards something more cultivated, Planet Earth perhaps or Ken Burns’s The Civil War. Both are on Netflix but, as the streaming service recently announced, subscribers have spent half a billion hours watching Adam Sandler movies. That’s eleven zeroes. There are real problems in this world. Donald Trump is president. Why are we doing this to ourselves? I confess I’ve contributed to that total, though in an attempt to understand this part of the cultural zeitgeist. It’s an effort that evolved into ritual hate watching, and I haven’t been able to stop. But I may have to take my own advice and forgo future screenings, especially after latest this assault on my good senses.

By now I’ve lost track of which Sandler film is most offensive. Each one feels like a worthy titleholder. That’s My Kid makes a pretty good case for the top honor since it is premised on child abuse. Besides that, it just wades in juvenile muck. The “lucky” teen – he gets a hero’s welcome from friends and strangers alike – grows up to be a whiny-voiced Donny Berger (Sandler), a man with nothing to show for except a $43,000 tax bill and fifteen expired minutes of fame. In order to avoid jail time, he strikes up a deal with a tabloid TV producer who agrees to give Donny the money if he can finagle a reunion between him, his son, and his still-jailed lover (Susan Sarandon, Amurri Martino’s mother and veteran Motherlover).

Donny immediately sets off to find his lost offspring, Han Solo Berger (Andy Samberg), only to discover that he’s changed his name to Todd Peterson in order to shed any connection to his embarrassing past. The high flying hedge fund manager has also concocted a story about his parents’ death, making any reunion an awkward affair, like the one that happens when Donny crashes Todd’s wedding weekend. A crass, drunken father is the last thing Todd needs as he’s about to marry Jamie (Leighton Meester) and finally get a family of his own. But rather than reject this intruder, everyone from Todd’s boss (Tony Orlando) to his fiancée’s intense Marine brother (Milo Ventimiglia) embraces Donny’s vulgarity, much to Todd’s surprise since he still hasn’t been able to win many of them over.

The jokes, if we’re going to call them that, come at you rapid fire. It’s a good technique if you don’t trust your humor to make much of an impact. So the film tries to distract you by lobbing one bit of crazy after another, lest you pause and consider how lewd and unnecessary it all is. One running gag is Donny’s sexual attraction to the boss’s octogenarian mother. There’s also an extended bachelor party sequence that starts with some harassment at a spa, spills into a strip club that Donny frequents, continues with public urination and other hooligan behavior, and ends with Todd making love to Jamie’s dress. Some gags about the Asian help get thrown in too because why the hell not?

Buried beneath all of this is a story about a broken father and son. If you find room in your heart, you may find Donny’s overtures of reconciliation genuine and even touching. Of course you will also have to accept that his paternal instincts are all about toughening up his son into an alpha male and mocking Todd when he doesn’t live up to those expectations. I’m not buying any of it though, and as much as I like Samberg slightly goofy demeanor, Sandler’s shtick is just too overpowering.

Released: 2012
Prod: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo
Dir: Sean Anders
Writer: David Caspe
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Vanilla Ice, Milo Ventimiglia, Peggy Stewart, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, Susan Sarandon, Eva Amurri Martino, Justin Weaver, Ciara, Luenell, James Caan, Rachel Dratch
Time: 114 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2017

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

eight-crazy-nights

Eight Crazy Nights is the animated Chanukah musical film you didn’t know you needed, and it comes mightily close to pulling it off. A familiar tale about a lost kid who never shakes off a childhood tragedy, he grows up to become the town drunk before finally seeing The Light amidst all the other Christmas and Chanukah lights. It has a perennial message of redemption and second, and third and fourth, chances that never gets old and that has fueled many a holiday film. A shame then that is ruined by Adam Sandler’s grating voice acting.

Though his brainchild – Sandler co-produces and co-writes and stars, his presence as not just one but four different characters means there’s never a moment of respite. Actually, he is bearable as Davey, the 33 year old troublemaker who delights in making life for Dukesberry residents miserable, if only because Sandler speaks in a normal voice. Davey’s had it rough; orphaned as a young teen, he abandoned a promising basketball career and turned delinquent. Nowadays, he lounges around the mall and Chinese restaurants, committing an assortment of crimes on impulse or, when he’s in a better state of mind, insulting people about their insecurities.

The self-hate is strong with this one, but the fact that he is so loathsome, not only to others but to himself, makes you wish for his conversion that much more. He helps his case by showing a flicker of fondness towards his childhood friend Jennifer (Jackie Titone), a single mother with a young son, and by hanging on to his parents’ unopened Chanukah card. Davey’s callousness and outright cruelty may not be very understandable or forgivable but his compounding shame and regret is relatable.

The trouble begins after his latest infraction when he is sentenced to community service with a basketball referee in the youth leagues. You’re ability to tolerate Whitey Duvall, rather Sandler’s interpretation of him, may determine how charitable you feel towards this movie. Voiced by any other older actor, he’d be a charming hobbit of a man, someone who goes out of his way to show kindness to everyone and who believes in Dukesberry’s youth regardless of talent. He earns more sympathy as a pensioner forced to scrounge around for odd jobs and as a yearly contender, though never winner, for the town’s service award. That he still sees something in Davey even when everyone else has given up says something about pure charity.

But all of this is cancelled out by Sandler’s pinched and grating whine, that pouty, interminable screech he adopts when he wants the world to know that he can do funny voices. I can excuse his adolescent fixation on body parts and bodily functions, I can excuse his voicing of Whitey’s anxious twin sister (he plays her about an octave lower), I can even excuse the racist Chinese restaurant owner played by Rob Schneider (okay, no I can’t). But I can’t bring myself to reconcile the indefatigable Whitey with Sandler’s vision of him. The film may be vibrantly animated and livened by punchy if not exactly outstanding songs, but it has a hard time overcoming its own creator.

“Long Ago” by Adam Sandler and Alison Krauss:

“Technical Foul” by Adam Sandler, Adam Sandler, and Adam Sandler:

“The Chanukah Song, Part 3” by Adam Sandler:

Released: 2002
Prod: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo, Brooks Arthur
Dir: Seth Kearsley
Writer: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Brooks Arthur, Brad Isaacs
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Austin Stout, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz
Time: 76 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

Hotel Transylvania

hotel transylvania

Adam Sandler has earned himself a less than stellar reputation over the years. Despite a near record 11 Golden Raspberry nominations, he hasn’t learned to say “no,” or at least “yes” to a better quality of film. But it seems that he can turn out entertaining movies, so long as his role behind the scenes is limited. Though his fingerprints are smudged all over this one, they’re easier to look past.

As it happens, he and his usual cast of suspects are much more palatable in animated, family friendly form. An ostensibly old fashioned story about an overprotective father with a teenage girl – in this case, an 118 year old vampire, Hotel Transylvania is not daring or innovative, but it is sweet and serviceable. The film takes you where you expect to go, offering a few delightfully animated surprises along the way.

Dracula (Sandler) shuts himself off from the human world after they murder his wife, and he erects a haven high in the hills of Transylvania for monsters and the undead. He is most committed to the safety of his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), however, and spends the next century trying to instill in her a fear of humans. A girl can’t just sit around a castle all day though, and she’s itching to get out and meet people her own age, sort of. On her big 118th birthday, Dracula allows her to explore a nearby village.

Her short adventure leaves her spooked, which is just what daddy planned. What he didn’t expect, however, was the appearance of loopy bro backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg), who accidentally wanders into the human-free safe zone. Jonathan throws Dracula’s party plans into disarray, since he’s invited practically all of the monster world for the big bash. As the host tries to get rid of his new guest and keep his human identity secret, a young, cross-species (?) love begins to bloom.

The film is a reunion of Sandler regulars, like Kevin James as Frankenstein and David Spade as the Invisible Man. But it’s the appearance of Samberg that really gets the ball rolling. He brings a frenetic energy that gives the film a good kick in the early going but that soon spins out of control. Jonathan is a zany character that kids might enjoy, but I found his dude-ish, Dave Matthews Band personality grating after awhile, unappealing even for a home schooled teen craving human contact. The film’s middle section is also a lot of non-stop clanging and banging with quieter moments backloaded and subsequently rushed. There’s enough material to explore Dracula’s emotional growth and to give Jonathan added dimension, but that’s substituted literally with noise. Still, Mavis’s wide-eyed wonder and goodness made me smile. She can’t let go of the idea of garlic bread, which I suppose is a little strange.

“Problem (The Monster Remix)” by Becky G f. Will.i.am:

Released: 2012
Prod: Michelle Murdocca
Dir: Genndy Tartakovsky
Writer: Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Cee-Lo Green, Chris Parnell, Brian George
Time: 92 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016