Adam Sandler can ACTUALLY be a good actor… sometimes

No one man should have all that power.

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“Adam Sandler” by Sharon Graphics is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Drew Cornman, Features/Production Editor

No one man should have all that power. Wait, wait just a minute – Not Kanye West, I’m talking about the proclaimed “funny man” Adam Sandler. He has built up an incredible reputation in Hollywood (albeit not a great reputation, but a reputation nonetheless) and has made countless “comedic” films over the past 20-25 years. 

 Emphasis on the “comedic.”

 Who and what Adam Sandler is, still frightens me a little. However, I need to give credit where credit is due. His films have been able to gross just around $2 billion at the box office and are accompanied by some objectively “comedic” actors: Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider (….no), and the late Chris Farley (rest in peace). Where the “frightening” comes in is the manner in which his films are written: cliched to the absolute highest point and unfunny jokes. 

 However, Sandler is able to perform extremely well in a few dramatic roles. Famed director Paul Thomas Anderson’s third film “Punch Drunk Love” features Sandler at his most personal and flawed, showing a completely opposite character from the flamboyantly perverse likes of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. This role, paired with his iconic and snubbed performance as the rattling and manic jewel distributor Howard Ratner in “Uncut Gems” have made for some of the greatest performances of the 21st century. But the question is still relevant and conspicuous – is Adam Sandler an okay to good to great actor?

 The Sandler genre started and took off with his 1995 film “Billy Madison,” where Adam Sandler plays a goofy man-child who needs to pass school again in order to save his father’s hotel business. Let me say that again – a goofy man-child who needs to pass school again in order to save his father’s hotel business. Yes, it is stupid. Yes, it is dumb. Above all, it makes no sense. However, it is where he (Sandler) started the cliched genre, coming out with a series of films that started this same way: A weirdly infuriated character who has an obsession with impressing somebody in his life (father or girlfriend) then having an extremely infatuated plot that ends with a nicely wrapped bow. 

 Happy Gilmore is my personal favorite from this late 90s to early 2000s era because it is filled with a raging character who must save his grandmother from a nursery home by suddenly becoming great at golf. The film is calculated and predictable, do not get me wrong, but it is HILARIOUS and clever to some degree. It just sucks that his characters would soon all end up like this (Anger Management, The Wedding Singer). This film, just like the others stated, is very accessible and easy to come by. I cherish this movie for its simplicity and craziness, as many do. It looked like Sandler was trying here, but it soon would become unoriginal, leaving me exhausted to see yet another Adam Sandler movie.

 “Little Nicky” is Adam Sandler being at his annoyingly best, but still finds a way to be stupidly wholesome at the same time.

I like to call this genre “Experimental Adam” as Sandler plays the pitiful son of the devil himself, who needs to bring back his brothers from making a literal “hell on Earth.” 

Again, not very humorous or witty, but I laughed at the editing and acting. Plus the plot is something I can get along with, but still eerily boring. It marks a point in his career that just becomes annoying and frustratingly cliched, as many actors are just there for the money.  I can not really hate on that factor, as the actors are most of his friends who get to mess around for 90 minutes and get paid a good amount of money.

 In 2019, Sandler teamed up with director duo Benny and Josh Safdie to make the acclaimed drama “Uncut Gems.” He is supported by a great ensemble cast (Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, The Weeknd) but he clearly lifts the film to its greatest lengths. Why? The complexity. The plot is not too complicated, but moves very quick – A charismatic jeweler makes a high stakes bet that could ultimately lead to his downfall. One moment I loved the character, the next I hated him because he dug his hole even deeper. Sandler’s performance here is sensational – it is clear that he put his heart and soul into this character, leaving no unprofessional marks and served as a cliche-less complex character. YES! This is what I want from the guy. No stupidity, no unfunniness – a real character who I care about, but can absolutely degrade at the same time. The perfect Sandler.

 17 years earlier, as mentioned previously, is the film “Punch Drunk Love.” Personally, my favorite of his roles. A complete opposite of his characters at the time, he played a pathetic and introverted salesman who wants to have a relationship, but “hates himself sometimes.” Whether it be the directing or the screenplay, I will never know, but it showed that Sandler can be taken seriously. The charisma between his character and Emily Watson’s is magnificently charming and entertaining, with such a fantastic climax and resolution that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It is a Sandler rom-com done to perfection, and nobody else could have done it except the man himself.

 Even though Adam Sandler and his movies can be dumb, albeit foolish, the man can come through and give a standout acting performance. Will he ever get nominated for an Academy Award in the future? No, because it is freaking Adam Sandler, but it does not matter. Whether it be a dumb “slapstick” comedy like Billy Madison or the awful… thing that is Jack and Jill OR a thrilling masterpiece like Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler has range. Although it may not be something to always brag about.