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Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Defending Adam Sandler

Unpopular Opinions is a new weekly column in which a writer takes a stand against popular opinion, whether it's asserting the true merit of a supposedly guilty pleasure or dissenting against the universally lauded.

Going into a conversation where you’re defending Adam Sandler is normally not going to work in your favor. I learned this six years ago when I was doing my shift hanging out with Holocaust survivors, and one of the old guys actually turned to me and said, 'This is the worst thing I've ever seen,” and this was coming from a man who was in Auschwitz. There was no way I was going to try to defend the merits of Sandler talking gibberish to a room full of men who lived through one of the darkest periods in all of humanity. If he thought Sandler making a bottle of shampoo battle a bottle of conditioner was bad, then I had to agree. I changed the channel and we watched Family Feud hosted by Al from Home Improvement.

Beyond my volunteering duties, I’ve tried countless other times to explain that Sandler’s brand of comedy is purely visceral, and sometimes you need that in your life. Sandler is the perfect, mindless escape after you’ve actually used your brain all day, and just want the visual equivalent to a dirty thirty of beer. Throughout the 1990s, Sandler was the king of this sort of comedy — both with his films and comedy albums — and it set him up to make more “serious” films and family friendly ones in the new millennium. Sandler excels at being the living embodiment of the dick and fart joke, and knowing that is his bread and butter. Sometimes he’ll take a detour and work with Paul Thomas Anderson like he did in 2002’s Punch Drunk Love, or he’ll make a gut wrenching film like Reign Over Me, or a true gem like Funny People; but more often than not, he’ll get you Little Nicky. Whatever the case, I think even attempting to mention the fact that I like his films is useless, now that he’s been nominated for a record twelve Razzies.

Sandler isn’t exactly a master of his craft. He has three basic speeds:

1. He speaks softly, like a sweet child with some sort of mental disorder. He either does this in his normal voice, or in the Little Nicky one.

2. Screaming like a maniac.

3. Doing one of his voices. He has several, but they basically all originate from three different spots: A variation on his crazy Jewish aunt that he utilized in his latest film, Jack and Jill; the Triumph The Insult Comic Dogesque accent he’s used for characters from the talking goat to Cajun Man, and The Buffoon.

That’s really it. Sandler offers no real social critique. He isn’t a good writer, and he’s basically coasting on the fact that somehow every single major movie he does makes over $100 million dollars. His movies and their premises get dumber as he tries to seem smarter, but he might be the main reason that Kevin James still gets work. Yet I’ll still watch a Sandler film over just about anything else if I really just want to tune out and see something completely stupid.

Sandler takes the Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis and dumbs it down, then relentlessly hits you over the head with it while making sounds that almost resemble what you’d hear in the ape house at a zoo. And that’s what’s so great about his films; you don’t need to get wrapped up in characters and hope that they turn out all right. There’s really nothing at all redeeming about Happy Gilmore or the Israeli soldier turned hairstylist in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, but that’s really the point of his slapstick — it’s a style of comedy that is akin to pornography, in that you don’t watch it for the story, you watch it for the punchline, and in Sandler’s case, he’s either going to make you laugh by literally acting retarded (The Waterboy), or you’re going to sit with your arms folded saying how incredibly stupid his brand of comedy is, and thinking that Sandler is the worst thing to happen to not just the Jews, but humanity itself.

If you have your own Unpopular Opinion you want to make a case for, send a pitch to Jesse David Fox.

Jason Diamond likes to randomly tell people that he's a Cancer (July 8th) and see how they react. He has written about various subjects for The New York Times, Paris Review Daily, NPR.org, A.V. Club, is the New York Deputy Editor of Flavorpill, blogs daily for the eMusic 17 Dots blog, and is the founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

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  • http://planetutah.typepad.com/planet_utah/ David Dodenhoff

    I love stupid, mindless comedy as much as the next guy, but I don't like most Adam Sandler movies because they fail a basic test for me–they don't make me laugh. Are you telling me that when you watch a standard $100 million Sandler comedy, you enjoy yourself as much as you would if you were watching, say, Caddyshack, or Ace Ventura, or Austin Powers, or Wet Hot American Summer, or Fletch, or Dumb and Dumber, or Old School, or Wedding Crashers, or Anchorman, or Uncle Buck, or There's Something About Mary…? If not, then why bother with Sandler at all? Why not just fire up one of the classics?

  • Nikolas Ehren Nelson@facebook

    Where is the "defending" of Adam Sandler as referred to in the headline? None of this reads like a defense. It seems more like "You know guys, I agree, Sandler sucks. But remember Billy Madison? Oh, how we laughed. And then he did that serious movie too."
    Edited to add: I still unironically love Little Nicky. Some great talent and performances in that movie.

  • carson

    I'll say this much:

    Happy Gilmore is great stuff – no qualifiers. Billy Madison is horrifyingly bad, but also pretty funny. I re-watched The Wedding Singer with my 12-year-old sister-in-law a couple years back and it actually held up not bad. 50 First Dates was surprisingly not awful. I mean, it was awful, but also a little sweet.

  • Coleman Torrans@twitter

    Do we have to subscribe to see the rest of the article or something?

  • Robert Dixon@facebook

    Eff you guys. I like Adam Sandler. Sure his movies are mostly stupid, but I'll watch them because I will be entertained. I love Little Nicky and Billy Madison. Eight Crazy Nights is one of my favorite holiday movies. Even his family movies aren't bad. And nothing is better then Happy Gilmore. Seriously a fist fight with Bob Barker? Price is wrong, Bitch. Come On!!!