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I Just Don't Get It! - Adam Sandler

We'll kick off the I Just Don't Get It series with one that I imagine I'm not going to get a whole lot of disagreement on, the seemingly never-ending box office success of Adam Sandler.

In my opinion the comedy genre is probably the toughest area of film to base a long lasting successful career on.  What's funny to one generation usually isn't funny to another.  What's funny one year is usually over the next, and its even gotten to the point that what's funny one week is simply lame the next.  The point being comedians have it pretty tough when essentially their careers are riding on the current flavors of the month, and when most comedians are quite the one trick pony's, their one sided style of comedy wears thin (and it always does), its usually to the bottom of the box office for the remainder of their careers.  Remember when Eddie Murphy used to be funny and make good films?  Remember when Will Ferrell used to be the flavor of the month?  What ever happened to Mike Meyers acting career?  Remember that American Pie kid... Jason Biggs, haven't seen him in a non-direct to DVD title in a while.  But there's one "comedian" in Hollywood that appears to be the exception to the rule, one guy who could probably remake one of his own film ten times over (which he essentially does) and make an easy 100 million every time, that's Adam Sandler.

In his career Adam Sandler has had ten films that have grossed over 100 million in the United States alone, of which maybe three I would considered good.
Bedtime Stories (2008) - $110,101,975
Don't Mess With The Zohan (2008) - $100,018,837
Click (2006) - $137,355,633
The Longest Yard (2005) - $158,119,460
50 First Dates (2004) - $120,908,074
Anger Management (2003) - $135,645,823
Mr. Deeds (2002) - $126,293,452
Big Daddy (1999) - $163,479,795
The Waterboy (1998) - $161,491,646    
*The Wedding Singer (1998) - $123,306,987 *(worldwide total)

In terms of comedies Sandler hasn't had a box office flop since 2000's Little Nicky.  That's ten straight years of 100 plus million dollar grosses with a few mediocre to successful dramedy roles.  And with this week's release of Sandler's latest comedy, Grown Ups, he's already on track for another 100 million dollar success.  I estimated the film would hit 40 million, it hit 41, making it Sandler's 3rd highest opening ever.  How does he do it?

Personally I don't have anything against Adam Sandler as an actor, on the rare occasions when he actually makes a good film I enjoy it.  He seems like a really cool and likable guy who always takes care of his friends by constantly giving them roles in his films.  People like Rob Schneider, Norm MacDonald and Steve Buscemi wouldn't have careers if it weren't for Sandler... and maybe that's simply a reason to not like him.  Schneider especially has received over exposure due to his friendship, as most of his starring roles are films produced by Sandler.  But Sandler's trend of giving his friends parts is one of the main reasons his film's are usually so horrible.  Take Grown Ups for example, a film that should really be titled "Has Beens".  It's almost like Sandler's filming a vacation with friends and throwing in a couple hot chicks for scenery.

Aside from Kevin James (Sandler's newest pal) no one else in this film has much talent or has had a successful film in years (if ever).  Chris Rock... another guy who deserves his own "I Just Don't Get It" post.  I don't get Rock's career in general, he's never been in a successful film, and he's more annoying than anything else.  Of course Rob Schneider, Norm MacDonald and Steve Buscemi, nothing really needs to be said there.  David Spade... he's been a laughing stock in the entertainment business for years, and his 15 minutes of fame died with Chris Farley.  Round out the cast with Salma Hayek (whose as hot as the sun but not much of an actress), Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph (okay?), it all makes you scratch your head and wonder why would anyone pay $10-20 a ticket to see this?

So the real question is why are Adam Sandler comedies instant money makers.  We all know why, for the most part, they're all bad; it's the combination of Sandler being a one trick pony, writing most of these films himself, and hiring all his talentless friends.  But how did he go from hilarious films in the 1990's that only grossed $20-30 million, to awful films in the 2000's that gross over 100 million?  In my life-time I've only paid to see one Adam Sandler film (The Waterboy) and since then I've rarely heard anyone say or write anything positive about an Adam Sandler comedy, so whose funding Sandler's family outings?

At first I thought it might be the mindless crowds that finance the continual torture that is known as the "spoof genre", but on average those films only pull in about $30-40 million domestically (if they're lucky), so where is the other $60+ million coming from?  The only thing I can fathom is Sandler purchases all the tickets during opening weekend in an attempt to draw crowds.  Maybe Sandler films legitimately only open at about $10 million and he's responsible for the extra $30, these inflated false numbers in turn make the public assume the film is good and they all get suckered in.  I don't know, I just don't get it... do you?


  1. I kind of agree with you here. When I was a young man in the mid 1990's, Adam Sandler was the funniest man alive to me. There is still a special place in my heart for Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, but I haven't been a big fan of his movies since. I'm in the Waterboy, for about one second, and I still have to admit it's a pile of crap. Maybe we'll never know how his movies keep on chugging along.

  2. I think he is just appealing to both younger audience and the average moviegoers who don't really have a highly developed taste in movies, so they fall for comedies such as Sandler's are. I've always thought of Sandler the same way I think about Will Smith - he also never had any stunning or profound role, but he is still America's sweetheart.

    Just like you I also don't have anything against Adam Sandler as an actor, although I don't really watch his movies too much. I think I prefer Ben Stiller to him, Stiller somehow has a more intelligent acting.

  3. @Alfindeol - yes Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, even the Wedding Singer are all good Sandler projects. I really don't remember how much I liked the Waterboy, I just remember it's the only Sandler film I actually went to see in the theaters.

    @Dezmond - Will Smith is not a bad comparison, although Smith has a little more range than Sandler does, he's not limited to being successful in one genre. But most of Smith's films are pretty average if not mediocre (especially in the last 5-7 years), but at least his films are different, Sandler's films are essentially the same with him playing the same type of role.

  4. I still like Wedding Singer, saw it on TV recently, still enjoy it on some level. The rest, very much eh. I kind of liked Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, but never to any real depth. When it first came out I was quite into Big Daddy, but that went away when I saw Kramer vs. Kramer, and the two are too similar. But Hoffman > Sandler by a mile.

    For me, the Man-Child character is just worn out, and not that great. Not to mention I feel like way too much of it relies on yelling, which doesn't make things any funnier. Not to mention that cynical Sandler haha finger point laugh, which is just stupid.

  5. I'm a fan of his older work leaps and bounds over his newer stuff. Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Wedding Singer, and Waterboy are all favorites of mine. And since then? He's been hit or miss.

    I really disliked Mr. Deeds, Bedtime Stories, Click, and I Know Pronounce YOu Chuck and Larry.

    BUT Zohan was one of my favorite comedies of the past decade. 50 First Dates was adorable, and Anger Management had it's moments.

    In spite of his faults, he is more consistent than a lot of comedians, and we kind of know what we're getting into when we go to a Sandler flick.

    He's strictly straight to DVD for me (aside from Zohan but that was the husbands turn to pick movie and it turned out he was right), but even when he disappoints I still like the guy. I mean he's Opera Man. I forgive him.

  6. @Univarn - Like most comedies Sandler has a typical shtick, that being the "manchild" act, which usually leads to the yelling and finger pointing. When you're in your mid 40's it does get a little old.

    @Heather - I'm with you, Sandler is always strictly rental, it's a little easier to enjoy his stuff when you know you didn't pay $15 to see it! Like you I enjoy his early stuff the most there are a few worth while films sprinkled later (you mentioned 50 First Dates, that's one I enjoy) but for the most part I think Sandler's latest stuff is a miss with most people.

    I guess what really confuses me is his popularity because I never hear anything good about his films from the critics or more importantly people that do see his films. So if everyone knows what to expect when they go in they must simply be doing it to complain when they come out, because that's all I ever hear! And anyone who does have anything good to say are like yourself who watch it when it's on DVD and therefore aren't adding to the box-office amounts.


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