Adam Sandler has always been a real hit-or-miss comedian for me. I find a lot of his shticky characters, which are little more than bad posture and a half-assed "funny" voice, to be annoying, and I am not a big fan of novelty songs--arguably, the elements that have brought him his biggest success. I think Sandler is at his best when he's being forceful and/or creepy. He plays a really good jerk. He also has the capability to be really sweet. My favorite work from him is when he is challenging his own image, particularly in two of his most underrated movies, Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People.
Nowhere is the mixed bag that is the Adam Sandler comic style more evident than on Saturday Night Live - The Best of Adam Sandler, a greatest hits package of the performer's well-known skits from the early 1990s. It's clear how out of sync I must be with the most popular aspects of Sandler's career right from the start: the DVD opens with his "Christmas Song," which is different than the "Hanukkah Song," which shows up not long after as a clip from what I think was his first performance of that hit as part of a "Weekend Update" segment. We also get the music video for the "Lunch Lady Song." C'mon, SNL, what are you doing to me? Novelty numbers like this date faster than an open milk carton under a heat lamp, and they make about as much sense.
Also dated are his other "Weekend Update" skits. Opera Man, Cajun Man, the guy who made up lame Halloween costumes--they were funny once upon a time, but they seem cheap now. We get no less than four montages of Opera Man's top punch lines. Between them and the "Hanukkah Song," you will never be stuck for what to rhyme with the word "whore" ever again. Sandler's humor tends to skew toward the frat house, and as with everything he does, he creates a conflict between one side of himself that jokes in ways that are homophobic or misogynist and the other side of himself that is obviously neither of those things. If he really was, he'd never have made the fantastic "Schmitts Gay" parody commercial, where the standard bikini-draped beer ad is turned into a homoerotic parody. The bit still works, it's still quite funny.
Surprisingly, so does "Iraq Pete," a ham-fisted send-up of propaganda and stereotyping from the first Gulf War. Timeless comedy, alas, seems to get at our most terrible traits, things that will never change. Thank goodness Sandler hasn't pulled a Dennis Miller and changed his politics, or Iraq Pete could be making regular appearances at Tea Party rallies and on Fox News. Also still effective are Sandler's more skin-crawling concepts. The Canteen Boy skit with Alec Baldwin as a scout-master pederast is even more relevant and more uncomfortably funny, what with the real-life Boy Scout scandals of the past few years, and "The Denise Show," where Sandler hosts a cable access show to highlight his obsession with his ex-girlfriend (played by Shannon Doherty), is so close to the edge of actual stalker psychoses, it wouldn't take much to turn it into a suspense movie. Just cut the laughs--of which there are plenty.
My favorite skit in here has to be the "Zagat" selection, featuring Adam Sandler and Chris Farley as an elderly couple. Sandler plays the old man driven crazy by his wife reading from the Zagat guide. It should be said, however, that this skit isn't funny because of Sandler, it's funny because Farley is so wonderful as the enthusiastic old woman, so well meaning and pleased with herself. (David Duchovny also appears in drag as her Zagat-loving friend.) On the emotional flipside, Farley's comedic rage completely overshadows Sandler's tepid performance as the skeevy teen in "The Herlihy Boy." Not surprisingly, Sandler nearly loses his cool and laughs in both skits. A lot of this DVD showcases just how great Farley was. He is also hysterical in the "Gap Girls" sketch, "Grandma," and "Schmitts Gay," and it's marvelous to see how good he was at making his friends look better. Sandler and David Spade really shine in tandem with the late funnyman.
The full list of material on Saturday Night Live - The Best of Adam Sandler is as follows:
* "Christmas Song Cold Open"
* "Gap Girls" - with guest Alec Baldwin
* "Schmitts Gay"
* "Opera Man #1"
* "Canteen Boy"
* "Hanukkah Song"
* "The Denise Show"
* "Springsteen" - Sandler does a fairly good Bruce Springsteen impression for guest host Courtney Cox
* "Room Service" - Sandler, Rob Schneider, Chris Farley, and Mike Meyers play grabby Italian hotel staff making the moves on Kirstie Alley, much to the consternation of her husband (Kevin Nealon)
* "Opera Man #2"
* "Cajun Man"
* "Lunch Lady Song" - Look close and you might spot Sarah Silverman!
* "Opera Man #3"
* "Grandma" - Sandler as a finicky old lady who prefers her older grandson (Michael Keaton) to her anxious younger grandson (Farley)
* "Halloween Costumes"
* "The Herlihy Boy" - An infomercial for a kid that really wants to be your housesitter.
* "Iraq Pete"
* "Opera Man #4"
* "Closing Credits" - Not sure why this is listed on the back of the DVD like it's a skit. It's literally just the closing credits.
Saturday Night Live - The Best of Adam Sandler is full frame, ported to disc at 1.33:1. The picture looks pretty good. The overall transfer is solid, with well-preserved source material being used to give us a fresh look at 1990s television. This is probably a step above broadcast quality from the time, and maybe a step down from what we might expect of a more recent television show. The digital resolution is good.
The Dolby Digital mix is very straightforward. It sounds fine, it's been cleaned up and there is no archival hiss or anything. Again, this is a dated release, so before surround sound was common.
Closed Captioning is available for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Another re-release of an old compilation, Saturday Night Live - The Best of Adam Sandler features an expanded extras section. Alongside a photo gallery, there are some bonus sketches.
The bonus sketches are as follows. Most of them are totally a waste, honestly. More of what I didn't like, so I'd classify these as a penalty rather than a bonus.
* "Canteen Boy Monologue" - Alec Baldwin returns, and he and Sandler do a politically correct version of their previous sketch.
* "Thanksgiving Song"
* "Red Hooded Sweatshirt (Valentine's Day Song)" - Jesus, how many of these things did he do? These ones have the added insult of reminding me of how much I hated Kevin Nealon's stint as anchor of "Weekend Update." And Paul McCartney gets roped into this mess, too.
* "Cajun Man/Mardi Gras" & "Cajun Man/NCAA"
* "Halloween Costumes II & III"
For my money, Saturday Night Live - The Best of Adam Sandler is much less bang for the buck than many of the other SNL compilations. Sandler has his moments, and there are some great skits here teaming him with the late Chris Farley, but a good portion of the material is far too skippable. The songs, the "Weekend Update" characters--these haven't aged well. It's not a total wash and worth some jumping around, but better to Rent It than buy it. (Sandler fanatics will, of course, disagree; adjust accordingly.)
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the superhero series It Girl and the Atomics and the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.