Hating Adam Sandler is easy – he’s the personification of mainstream.
He’s the Coldplay of Hollywood comedy…he’s never going to write Sergeant Pepper, but every album will have at least three catchy radio-friendly singles that will rattle around in your head for months.
Furthermore, just like Chris Martin and his beat combo, Adam Sandler has a lot of secret fans who lurk in the shadows too scared of the “cool kids” to ever admit they enjoy his work. After all, no one wants to be ridiculed by people with haircuts and bags of “plant food” who only listen to music released on LP because MP3s are so last century…
But here’s some shocking news – just because Sandler is rich, successful and mainstream doesn’t mean his work has no merit.
I’m not going to waste your time telling you Sandler is a great actor in the traditional sense (he occasionally tries to do serious), nor shall I even defend his stand-up comedy – this part of his career is of no interest to me.
My argument is simple – Sandler does two things, but he does them well.
Let’s meet character number one:
“Special child in an adult’s body”
The tone was set back in 1995 with his seminal back to school romp, Billy Madison (even the high-minded Radio Times gave it three stars). It’s one of the first occasions where we see Sandler become this character who we will see return time and again throughout his filmography.
It’s not big and it’s not clever, but a man-child groping to come to terms with the harsh realities of adulthood sitting on an undersized chair in a classroom – when portrayed by Sandler – is genuinely funny.
In 1998, The Waterboy offers similarly silly teenage kicks as Sandler’s largely demented lead is joined by an overbearing mother (Kathy Bates), a stunning performance by Henry Winkler as the inept coach and a whole lot of backwards Louisiana jokes.
See Little Nicky (2000) for a similarly stellar cast surrounding a simple Sandler.
And then there’s character two:
The lonely loser looking for love
Perhaps the most well-known example is when Sandler played The Wedding Singer (1998) opposite Drew Barrymore – a winning pairing that is reprised in the surprisingly charming 2004 hit, 50 First Dates.
From the reluctant adoptive father (Big Daddy – 1999) to the lonely novelty toilet brush magnate (Punch Drunk Love – 2002) Sandler’s innocent adult routine creates a friendly, warm and, more often than not, funny place to be.
Chuck in a great supporting cast – how about Harvey Keitel, Jon Stewart, Steve Buscemi, Rodney Dangerfield and the Fonz for a taste of what you might find – and you’ve got yourself some foolproof fun…you just need to have the guts to admit it.
He may only be a two-trick pony, but that already gives him twice as many cards as many Hollywood stars (yeah, Hugh Grant, you heard).
I submit to you that Adam Sandler, just like Coldplay, is OK.