No matter what part of the world you’re from, you’ve heard the name Adam Sandler. Just the mere utterance of his name is known to illicit some sort of emotional response from the person, positive or otherwise. These days, the response has been overwhelmingly negative, as you can tell by how critically panned his more recent attempt at a film, Pixels, has become. Any fan of Sandler’s early work, both on SNL and in film, will tell you that he wasn’t always a bigger joke than the ones in his films. In honor of that, the staff here at The Young Folks have each chosen their favorite Adam Sandler film, and they’re here to tell you why you should watch that over Pixels.
Alex Hanavan’s pick: Reign Over Me
Adam Sandler is one of those topics that one doesn’t bring up unless they’re ready for a lengthy conversation with heated arguments from both sides, like religion or politics. Most remember the glory days of his comedy, but his reputation in cinema of late has more than its fair share of blemishes. My favorite Sandler film isn’t one that many recall or have even heard of.
Reign Over Me is a far cry from Sandler’s stereotypical comedic performance and is instead about as serious a drama as one can come across. His performance and and that of costar Don Cheadle is truly exceptional, and we see a side of Sandler that few ever have. It’s an emotionally driven story of loss and redemption. For anyone who needs a film to help them cope with the disappointment of recent Sandler films, Reign Over Me will definitely not disappoint.
Joey Daniewicz’s pick: Eight Crazy Nights
Jon Winkler’s pick: Punch-Drunk Love
After three critically-acclaimed movies with all-star casts (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia), writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s fourth project would have to be something that really stood out among the rest. So Anderson decided to pick a strong, passionate leading man to carry his project. Someone who can dig deep emotionally and restrain himself to be a sullen, shy romantic…like Adam Sandler.
Yes, anyone who tries to defend Sandler always brings up his starring role in Anderson’s 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love. Anderson’s take on romantic comedies features Sandler as Barry Egan, a shy and emotionally unstable salesman who’s been thrust into meeting a shy English woman (Emily Watson). The two start to have feelings for each other, but Barry has other problems: he has to get over his awkwardness and deal with being extorted by a phone-sex operator working for a crooked mattress salesman (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman).
It’ll be a cold day in hell when Sandler’s name is brought up for consideration during Oscar season, but Sandler did earn a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Punch-Drunk Love. Even with all the shlock Sandler’s been in, then and now, there’s always a hope that one day he’ll pull another Barry Egan out of him, because he’s fantastic as the man trading pudding for frequent flyer miles. Sandler’s never showed more restraint and investment in a character, looking uneasy and frightened of every situation Barry’s in. He’s terrified of being so open with someone, yet he’ll do anything to see the girl again because he’s never felt so close to someone before. When Barry snaps, Sandler lets the anger out only in short bursts, like breaking his sisters’ patio door or threatening the mattress salesman. He’s done some dramatic work since, but Punch-Drunk Love is one of the miniscule times that Sandler has played an actual character. Some might even call it…good acting.
Yasmin Kleinbart’s pick: Mr. Deeds
One of my ultimate guilty pleasures, Mr. Deeds was one of my favorite Sandler films. Even though it was around the time that his movies started to go downhill, Mr. Deeds has a special place in my heart. Yes, it has the same plot as every other Sandler comedy in existence, but there was something adorable about Longfellow Deeds and his naivety in the corporate world. And also, this was my first time seeing Steve Buscemi, so I totally thought his eyes were “crazy” in real life.
Gabrielle Bondi’s pick: Spanglish
Jon Espino’s pick: Funny People
It would be too easy to pick a film from early in his career because his predictable schtick still seemed novel in films like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. My favorite film from the last six years, with Adam Sandler as the lead actor, is easily Funny People. This is of course thanks to the script and direction of genius comedy writer Judd Apatow. This film marked the beginning of Apatow’s transition into more seriously-toned comedies. This was already a big gamble to begin with, but to choose Sandler to lead his film seemed like a losing bet. Luckily, we were all wrong.
Apatow must have seen something in Sandler that we hadn’t seen from him in years. Sandler was able to bring the emotional depth needed to bring the character to life. Of course he was able to bring the humor, but it was much more contained and precise, as opposed to his usual scattershot style of hits and misses. We have not seen a performance like that from Adam Sandler in several years, but Funny People is the stark reminder that he is completely capable of bringing his characters to life even when they’re dying.
Adam Sandler is a well of talent and humor, even if he doesn’t always show it every chance he gets. These films are only a few of what we consider to be his best films, and the ones we think highlight his true skills as a comedian and an actor. That being said, Pixels is NOT one of those films. If we haven’t yet dissuaded you from seeing it, then read our review for Pixels and then make your decision. If for whatever reason you choose to ignore all the red flags after that, remember that we warned you–because only extreme Adam Sandler fans and gluttons for punishment would still go see the film after reading all of this.