It occurs to me that the worst thing that can ever happen to a comedian is to reach a point at which the general audience moves from “What has happened to you?” to the lower depths of “How do you keep getting work?” Such is the commentary on Adam Sandler whose recent spate of disastrous press over his summer box office comedy Pixels have finally given his money men a wake up call that the theaters for his movies are basically empty. Why they didn’t catch on to this – I don’t know – 12 movies ago is beyond me.
Personally, I’ve never liked Sandler, even during his heyday on SNL. Yes, he sold albums and was a box office star, but he grated on my nerves. His persona reminds me of that irritating kid in English class who sat behind me and made duck noises with his arm pits while amusing himself with annoying voices. In his movies it’s the same idea; the only difference is that on the screen he’s getting paid $20 million for it.
Sandler is not without talent. Under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson he turned in a brilliant comic performance in Punch Drunk Love a decade ago, and more recently with Russian-born animator Genndy Tartakovsky they made Hotel Transylvania. Good pictures. Yet, he refuses to follow that same trail, and recently he has famously been using his company Happy Madison to fund movie projects so he and his friend can take trips to places he wants to go, like Africa (Blended), Las Vegas (Paul Blart 2) and Toronto (Pixels) and Hawaii (Just Go With It). Fine, but the result is that he stick his audience with movies that are destroying his already shaky reputation.
Now realizing that the movie theater is no longer a viable option to his laziness he has now taken his cinematic indifference to Netflix for a planned four-picture deal. The move does nothing to improve the quality. Entering into his first Netflix venture, a laughless chunk of indifference called The Ridiculous 6, did not fill me with confidence especially with reports that the movie was so offensive that a handful of the Native American actors simply walked off the set. I get that, but I don’t find it offensive to the Native American culture so much as movies in general.
The plot is more or less superfluous. It’s a parody, I guess, of every western movie from Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven all the way back to A Man Called Horse about a half-Indian man dealing his dual identity. Sandler plays White Knife, a saddle-sore who was raised by Apaches and learned superhuman fighting skills. His white father Frank Stockburn (Nick Nolte) goes missing and that puts him in contact with his five brothers: Chico (Terry Crews), Herm (Jorge Garcia), Lil’ Pete (Taylor Lautner), Ramon (Rob Schneider), and Danny (Luke Wilson). That’s a thin line on which to hang jokes that are either gross (one character is nicknamed “Beaver Breath”) or just plain baffling – the opening credits called this The Ridiculous 6 – in 4K! What? I don’t even get it.
If that didn’t tickle your funny bone then the rest of the movie will leave you in stone faced indifference. We get a burro who projectile defecates. We get an extended gag in which a man scoops out his own eyeball. There’s Vanilla Ice playing Mark Twain. There’s one character so dumb that he thinks that babies are defecated out their mother’s womb. Blake Shelton shows up as Wyatt Earp for no reason. There’s baffling gag in which a man is stabbed in the leg with a carrot, which comes right after the appearance of a gang of thugs so tough that they have each removed their right eyeballs – that’s funny, right? Meanwhile I sat through this movie with the strange urge to do the same thing (it has that effect on you).
And right in the middle of all this is Adam Sandler who manages to sleepwalk through this movie with a measure of indifference that made me depressed over the fact that he was getting paid. If I did that on my job, I’d be fired. His character isn’t consistent – one minute he has an accent and the next minute he doesn’t. Sandler’s line-readings sound like he’s reading from cue cards and then gives up halfway through. There’s no joy of performance. He doesn’t care. His scenes are lazy and unfunny and give you the basic urge to be anywhere else.
What he and his team have created here is not satire; it’s a badly structured series of unfunny episodic sketches that feel like they were written by a 12 year-old with ADD. As the Native American stereotypes, I wouldn’t worry so much about that because if you culled everyone who could find offense in this movie (whites, blacks, latinos, women) we’d be here all day – I guess you could call it an equal opportunity offender. I spent 119 minutes with this movie and another half hour writing this review. That’s 149 minutes out of my life that I am never going to get back. You just spent 10 minutes out of your life reading this review. That’s 10 minutes out of your life that you’re not going to get back. Sorry about that.