"Hey, Scott, are you an Adam Sandler fan?"
Ask me that question ten years ago and my answer would have been "Hmmm, Saturday Night Live, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore .... yeah, I guess I am an Adam Sandler fan."
Ask me the same question today and my brain fills with titles like Eight Crazy Nights, The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Anger Management, and The Longest Yard ... none of which I find even remotely amusing. (OK, maybe in a few isolated spots, but I basically think Sandler's sleepwalking through these flicks.)
In the guy's defense, he does try to stretch his wings from time to time, which explains why movies like Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish pepper his filmography ... but on the other hand, Sandler's production company is responsible for flicks like The Animal, The Master of Disguise, The Hot Chick, and Grandma's Boy -- so there goes any goodwill the guy may have earned.
But there's little denying the guy's profitability. Just about all of his vehicles have been bigtime box office hits, which just goes to show you what a loyal fanbase will sit through just to support their hero. (Sandler's next flick, the high-concept Click, does look somewhat promising, and the guy clearly has some comedy chops, so I suppose I'll keep giving him the benefit of the doubt until he gives up ... or I do.)
The three-disc "Sandler Collection" is a perfect illustration of the comedian's lack of effort. (Lack of effort or lack of talent, you decide.) Gathered here are three comedies that can be described in three simple sentences:
Big Daddy -- Goofy Sandler adopts a kid.
Mr. Deeds -- Goofy Sandler becomes a billionaire.
50 First Dates -- Goofy Sandler dates a girl with ... chronic amnesia.
It's not that I expect every comedy to be Oscar Wilde or Billy Wilder, but most of Sandler's flicks are cinematic Kleenex: You use 'em once and forget about 'em forever.
1999's Big Daddy came hot on the heels of the guy-friendly The Waterboy, and it was a blatant attempt to make Sandler a little more cuddly for the female demographic. It worked. Here Sandler plays a grown-up kid who becomes surrogate papa to an actual kid, thereby inciting "hijinks" of numerous varieties. It's a one-joke flick with only a few chuckles. (Interesting actors stuck in Sandler's shadow: Jon Stewart, Joey Lauren Adams, Leslie Mann)
After Big Daddy came the debacle that is Little Nicky, which must have forced Mr. Sandler to return to the Well of Simplicity. The result was 2002's Mr. Deeds, a loose and lazy remake of 1936's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. In this one, Sandler played his patented "lovable goof," only this time he's the shocked recipient of a $40 billion inheritance. The rest practically writes itself, doesn't it? (Interesting actors stuck in Sandler's shadow: John Turturro, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher)
Deeds led to another outright disaster: the outrageously obnoxious Hannukah cartoon Eight Crazy Nights. From there it was a return to formula with Jack Nicholson in Anger Management, and then another well-timed shot towards the fairer demographic: the romantic comedy 50 First Dates. It's about a lovable goofball in Hawaii who falls for the quirikly perfect girl, only she's afflicted with a rare form of amnesia that wipes her memory clean every morning. (Sounds like a particularly stupid episode of Bewitched to me.) So instead of the typical Sandler schtick (fart jokes, pee jokes, silly noises, and pratfalls) we get the typical Sandler schtick melded formlessly onto a high-concept rom-com confection that, despite a few funny moments, never really gels at all.
So I don't think it's that I don't like Adam Sandler; I think I just don't like his movies. They're invariably directed by some of the lamest shooters* out there, they're paper-thin and under-written, and they basically feel like videotaped wrap parties in which everyone's having a ball besides the audiences. Basically I think Adam Sandler is a grade-A sidekick player who somehow luckied himself into leading man status. Even as part of a "buddy duo" I think Adam Sandler could be excellent, but if his leading man filmography has taught me anything, it's that Sandler likes to be the star, and he doesn't like deviating from his well-hewn formula. Which means he'll probably keep making rather bad movies that make a whole lot of money.
(* Not to be mean or anything, but Sandler's three favorite directors seem to be Steven Brill (Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Heavyweights, Without a Paddle), Dennis Dugan (Big Daddy, Beverly Hills Ninja, Saving Silverman, National Security, The Benchwarmers), and Peter Segal (Tommy Boy, The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates, My Fellow Americans, Nutty Professor 2, and Naked Gun 3). I'll just let the batting averages speak for themselves.)
Video: All three movies are presented with anamorphic widescreen transfers, and they look just fine. Any problems you have with the look of these flicks should be directly at the generic directors Sandler seems to love so much.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 for all three movies; Big Daddy is the only one that doesn't offer a French option. Subtitles follow the same pattern.
Extras: The three discs come in their own thin-cases, but they're just reprints from the earlier DVD releases.
Big Daddy has an HBO First Look featurette, a pair of music videos (Garbage & Sheryl Crow), and some theatrical trailers. See our original Big Daddy DVD review right here.
Mr. Deeds comes with writer/director commentary, deleted scenes & outtakes, three featurettes, and a Dave Matthews music video. See our original Mr. Deeds DVD review right here.
50 First Dates offers cast & crew commentary, deleted scenes, three featurettes, three music videos (311 & Wayne Wonder), and a gag reel. See our original 50 First Dates DVD review right here.
If you're a big Sandler fan, then I'm betting you already own at least two of these DVDs already. If, however, you're brand new to Sandler's particular style of slob-com, and you're finding yourself enamored with the guy's work, this 3-in-1 deal isn't half bad.