Were it not for Noah Baumbach’s excellently layered, satisfyingly meaningful The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Collected), it’d be safe to say that The Week Of, the fourth film in Adam Sandler’s original four-movie deal with Netflix, would be his best released by the popular streaming service. The directorial debut of veteran comedy writer Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), best known as the man behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Sandler’s latest comedy is a more modest, character-driven piece, especially compared to the zanier, genre-bending works the comedian previously produced with Netflix’s blank checks, which includes The Ridiculous Six, The Do-Over and last year’s Sandy Wexler — all of which were tedious at best and aggressively offensive at worst. It is meandering, undoubtedly, and it is low ambitioned, certainly, but there is a sly charm found here, one that was absent, or simply rang false, in Sandler’s last couple comedies.
Telling a much more contained and likely personal story than most Adam Sandler vehicles past his bittersweet, soul-searching and generally overlooked Funny People, The Week Of fixates on Kenny Lustig (Sandler), a good-natured, well-intentioned but often befuddled working-class dad living in the suburbs of Long Island. His oldest daughter, 23-year-old Sarah (Allison Strong), is tying the knot with her considerate and loving boyfriend, Tyler (Roland Buck III), and Kenny has put it upon himself to take care of the wedding preparations. Not only because Kenny feels it’s his obligation to do so as the father of the bride, but because he wants to do right by his daughter. Of course, his daughter will love him no matter what, but Kenny still believes he needs to provide the best wedding he can —despite his meager funds and the fact that the groom’s father, the immensely successful L.A. surgeon Kirby Cordice (Chris Rock), makes a hell of a lot more money than Kenny does, and he’s very willing to pay for the nuptial preparations.
Again and again, Kirby offers to assist Kenny, but Kenny declines. And despite Kenny’s good intentions, it doesn’t take long before everything goes wrong — from hotel problems to an overstuffed house to eccentric family members to a string of bad luck. But through every hassle and dilemma, Kenny tries to put on a brave face and weathers the storm — though as the days count down to the wedding, things only get more hectic.
Adam Sandler finds himself in an intriguing place in his career. Both willing to work with acclaimed directors and slum it with material not worthy of his periodical talents, Sandler is producing some of the best and worst work of his entire career. The Week Of falls somewhere down the middle. It has the look and looseness of an indie dramedy, even though it was funded by one of the biggest, most well-known content producers working today, and that ultimately works to its advantage. Unlike Sandler’s last three Netflix productions, it isn’t trying too hard to push Sandler into roles outside his norm.
He isn’t a brooding Western cowboy, a seasoned assassin or a whiny music producer. He’s a caring, clumsy father who wants to do the best he can for his family against the odds. It’s not a complicated role, nor is it a rich one, and that what makes it endearing. Superficial comparisons can easily be made to Father of the Bride or My Big Fat Greek Wedding or, perhaps, Sandler’s own The Wedding Singer — mostly in the loosest sense — but The Week Of is not too similar to those past comedies. It’s not very original, but it doesn’t feel like a rehash of old material. There are inspired gags throughout, and what often makes them work with Smigel’s more grounded filmmaking approach. Even when it gets zany, as it does on several different occasions, it’s done in an agreeably down-to-earth fashion. The Week Of doesn’t try too hard to go to the extremes of Sandler’s more unfortunate movies; it presents the material in a straight, largely approachable fashion, which makes it go down smoother. While it likes to putz around, focusing on seemingly inconsequential actions or comedic bits that don’t add a whole lot to the overall story, they help to build to Kenny’s ongoing misfortune and the film’s more realistic approach.
That said, there are flourishes of Sandler’s usual wacky goofs. For instance, The Week Of has Seymour (newcomer Jim Barone in heavy make-up), a legless wheelchair bound 87-year-old with crippling diabetes whom people in the area assume is an injured WWII veteran. It also has a deeply troubled young man named Noah (Noah Robbins), who is seemingly triggered by anything and everything. These touches, especially the latter, seem ugly and maybe too mean-spirited — especially in a warm comedy as loving and understanding as The Week Of. It can give the comedy a sour aftertaste. It also doesn’t help that The Week Of tends to lose its focus, jumping to supporting characters and other subplots with little value — narratively or comedic — to the general overall story. Also, it doesn’t feature that much time between its two main stars, which is unfortunate.
While The Week Of sells itself as a buddy-comedy-of-sorts between Sandler and Rock, the comedians don’t share a whole lot of screentime together, strangely and quite sadly. Screenwriters Smigel and Sandler typically seem more preoccupied with the comedy bits than with the character building between the two, which makes their emotional journey seem underwhelming. While the relationship shared between Kenny and his daughter Sarah becomes fairly moving towards the last 30 minutes, such sweetness is lost or telegraphed between these two fathers-in-law. Which is a shame, because that seems to be the main draw of the film, and the ingredient that seems to be missing here.
Like the last three Netflix produced Sandler comedies, The Week Of is much too long. Though it’s not as needlessly extended as Sandy Wexler‘s egregious 130 minutes, Smigel’s first movie is a touch too aimless at 120 minutes. It could use a trim here and a cut there. It doesn’t seem to know when to call it quits, and it just sorta ends. Netflix’s completely hands-off approach allows the film to lack the changes it needs to work. Which is ultimately a real bummer, because The Week Of is easily the closest Happy Madison has come to a success in quite some time, especially with their work on Netflix.
The Week Of isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either. It’s just OK, which by Adam Sandler’s Netflix standards is almost pretty good! Almost. There’s a good bit to like here, including some solid supporting turns from Steve Buscemi and Rachel Dratch. But it falls short, if not by a lot. If this movie is a sign of what’s to come from Sandler’s second Netflix deal, however, maybe we’ll be getting pretty close to a decent movie from this collaboration. Like Kenny, you just gotta hope against hope, even when the outcome looks pretty dire.