Edelstein on Adam Sandler's comedies


Adam Sandler played both title characters in "Jack and Jill," a film that critic David Edelstein called "a disgrace."

Columbia PIctures

With the release of "Blended" this weekend, we wondered what David Edelstein, film critic for "Sunday Morning," NPR and New York Magazine, thought of other Adam Sandler comedies?

His best comments, perhaps, were directed towards Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002), a most uncharacteristic Sandler comedy (it even premiered at the New York Film Festival):
"Sandler played an emotionally overdefended child-man who floated through the world in a solipsistic (but lyrical) bubble. Like Will Ferrell, Sandler has layers of tenderness under layers of irony under layers of tenderness--plus a floating anger like Jupiter's great red spot."

But it's mostly downhill from there.

"Mr. Deeds" (2002)
"This is another of those post-Saturday Night Live vehicles in which ineptitude and laziness are supposed to be taken as irony: It's not bad, it's 'bad.' Actually, it's 'terrible': Anyone who could script and direct the scene in which Sandler offhandedly saves an elderly black woman and her cats from a conflagration while the firemen in the street below applaud and cheer must have spent the last year in some remote galaxy."

"Anger Management" (2003)
"'Anger Management' is bearable up to its protracted climax, set in Yankee Stadium, which gets my vote for the most excruciating wind-up of any comedy, ever."

"50 First Dates" (2004)
"The first 15 minutes of '50 First Dates' are gross--gross in the lazy, reflexive way that passes for comedy in an age in which teenage boys (and teenage boys at heart) hold the key to a movie's performance in the marketplace. . . . Then something weird happened: The movie got really, really good."

"Spanglish" (2004)
"If nothing else, 'Spanglish' is a hang-out movie with some entertaining people. Sandler is subdued, but it's a thoughtful and nuanced performance."

"The Longest Yard" (2005)
"What is Adam Sandler's shtick? It's hard to pin down. It's foggy, but also aggressive. It's aggressive and passive-aggressive, like a prince acting like an imbecile to drive his courtiers crazy. It has proven more elastic--in 'The Wedding Singer,' 'Punch-Drunk Love,' and '50 First Dates' than anyone could have imagined, but it doesn't stretch to playing a disgraced NFL quarterback in a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds/Robert Aldrich prison-football picture."

Adam Sandler in "You Don't Mess With the Zohan." Columbia PIctures
"You Don't Mess with the Zohan" (2008)
"How does Sandler get by with narcissistic fantasies so far-out? One way is by turning them into camp, so that he seems to be satirizing the movie-star potency he's actually peddling. The art is in the balance. Sandler never falls into the Jerry Lewis mode of naked self-infatuation. ...

"'Zohan' pushes the usual gross-out buttons, racial-stereotype buttons, and look-at-the-bazongas-on-that-stone-fox buttons ... But director Dennis Dugan knows his way around shin-whacking slapstick, and Sandler is mesmerizing. Some performers become stars because we can read them instantly, others--like Sandler--because we never tire of trying to get a fix on them. We can only be sure that, with Sandler's fan base, there will be many more mad narcissistic fantasies to come."

"Funny People" (2009)
"Even with famous comics and musicians showing up for cameos, 'Funny People' has no snap; it droops ... 'Funny People' is so full of morbid male self-attention that when it's over you expect to see crusty brown stains all over the screen."

"Jack and Jill" (2011)
"A disgrace. ... The Anti-Defamation League should picket the movie for crimes against Jewish women. The Friars Club should picket it for crimes against comedy."

"Blended" (2014)
"This is not his worst film, but it's his most offensive. It made me long for the relative innocence of 'Jack and Jill,' the penetrating father-son insights of 'That's My Boy,' the psychological subtleties of 'Happy Gilmore' ..."

By the way, according to the website Box Office Mojo, the films mentioned above have grossed more than $827,000,000.

Togather Sandler's films have grossed more than $2.2 billion, the highest-earning being 1999's "Big Daddy," with a $163 million gross.

Sandler's worst-performing starring vehicle? The critically-praised "Punch-Drunk Love," which earned $17 million.