Somewhere in Brooklyn, New York on September 9, 1966; one of the true entertainers on the New York Mount Rushmore was born. Adam Sandler is a titan of American comedy, contributing as an actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer and even a musician. Having been in the public eye since the late 1980s, Sandler has become a common name in the comedy genre, with all his features accumulating over $2 billion at the box office.
After his film debut with Going Overboard, Sandler performed in comedy clubs until comedian Dennis Miller caught his act and recommended him to Lorne Michaels for Saturday Night Live. His time there spanned five years and as a writer, Sandler was able to create some of the most famous songs in SNL history with skits such as ‘The Thanksgiving Song’. As he continued leading man role in comedies, Sandler later turned into producer when forming his own company, Happy Madison, in 1999. With this, he started to consistently collaborate with his friends, including the likes of David Spade, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Chris Rock and so on. His films may have been critically panned, but he has shown his ability as an actor when working with the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson and Noah Baumbach. After signing a four-movie deal with Netflix in 2014, it’s clear that there’s still very much an audience for Adam Sandler, no matter what it is.
Saturday Night Live (1990-95)
After an abundance of key writers left at the start of season 16 for SNL, writers like Rob Schneider and David Space (both collaborators with Sandler) had been promoted whilst Adam Sandler – along with Tim Meadows – had been hired to the cast mid-season. As the seasons went on, his workload increased – being promoted from a featured player to a middle player and eventually a repertory, writing classic songs like ‘The Thanksgiving Song’ and ‘The Chanukah Song’ that briefly featured in America’s Top 100 charts. One of his most famous sketches came in the form of Sandler playing a 27-year-old Canteen Boy who must fend off the sexual advances of his scoutmaster, Mr. Armstrong (Alec Baldwin), whilst on a camping trip with his scout troop. His time at SNL also included roles in cult comedies like Coneheads and Airheads, proving his talent was destined for greater things.
Happy Gilmore (1996)
Most Sandler comedies have him play the same ‘shouty man’ that he had demonstrated in his stand up and sketches from SNL. Despite the critical pan for these kinds of characters in his later work, the late 90s felt like continuous home runs as he gained box office, audience and somewhat critical acclaim for this stretch of films. But the highlight of this era has to be his golf-centred comedy, Happy Gilmore. The gags, supporting characters and antagonist are all repetitive traits of a Sandler-flick that have little differentiation, but Happy Gilmore features some of his personal best. Carl Weathers playing Chubbs Peterson, a pro golfer who was forced to retire after an alligator had bitten his hand off is a stroke of genius; as well as the famous cameo by Bob Barker where he and Sandler get in a heated scrap during a pro-am celebrity tournament. The late 90s is where Sandler’s devoted fans would begin to stick with him through thick and thin, recognising his work as a performer.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Anyone who believes comedians can’t act clearly hasn’t seen Punch-Drunk Love. Paul Thomas Anderson proved his work could dive into comedy whilst Sandler showed us his act wasn’t all just shouting and doing silly voices. Starring as an entrepreneur with severe social anxiety, Sandler received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal. Moments including Sandler planning to exploit a loophole amass a million frequent flyer miles and large quantities of pudding highlights the oddity and charm from Anderson and Sandler alike. Famed critic Roger Ebert praised Sandler’s performance in his review, saying “Sandler, liberated from the constraints of formula, reveals unexpected depths as an actor. Watching this film, you can imagine him in Dennis Hopper roles. He has darkness, obsession and power. He can’t go on making those moronic comedies forever, can he?”
Grown Ups (2010)
He sure can. The next decade or so consisted predominantly of cash-grabs for Sandler, comedies like Click and Bedtime Stories have interesting concepts but there is little to no effort from anyone involved within these productions. The diamond in the rough for these comedies however may be Sandler’s own Endgame in the form of Grown Ups. Starring Sandler, James, Rock, Spade and Schneider as five lifelong friends reuniting for a July Fourth Weekend with their families after attending the funeral of their middle school basketball coach. The film perfectly encapsulates that feeling of recapturing your youth with your friends. Fart jokes aside, the film grossed $271 million worldwide which Sandler was eternally grateful to his cast for, buying them a brand-new Maserati sports car each. As well as including the likes of Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Steve Buscemi and so forth, the cast of this will never be topped by any other Happy Madison production.
Jack and Jill (2011)
I cannot guide you any further through Adam Sandler’s career without mentioning the worst thing that has ever happened to cinema. Sandler’s career is full of peaks and troughs, although the majority falls on the lower end, Jack and Jill broke the scale plummeting what could be considered as an abomination of filmmaking. It did break award records however, the Golden Raspberry Awards that is. It was nominated for a record of 12 Razzies, becoming the first film to sweep the Razzies, winning in categories such as Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Worst Actress (Sandler winning both for his respective roles). It also destroyed any credibility Al Pacino had left after his illustrious career before then. Starring as himself, Pacino is a man smitten by Adam Sandler in drag, and even raps about Dunkin’ Donuts’ Dunkaccino, the most cursed minute I have ever had to witness in a theatre. Sandler is almost unforgivable after making families endure this disasterpiece, but the golden boy still keeps pulling us back in with each new project.
Adam Sandler should just be another Uwe Boll in the grand scheme of things; a well-off man commercialising within his failures as he avoids encouraging any effort into a lot of his work. Instead his filmography seems like a large tease over the last 30 years, highlighting the ability he has an actor and a writer. With Sandler’s next project Uncut Gems, a crime thriller directed by the Safdie Brothers being released nationwide across America this Christmas, there’s hope once again that Sandler will feed his supporters with a career-defining performance. And possibly an Oscar-worthy one.