I was in the middle of writing up one of my Plot-Recreated-With-Scathing-Reviews posts for Jack & Jill (currently sitting at 2% on Rottentomatoes, and only because of a pretty loose interpretation of what constitutes a “fresh” rating), when I came across Armond White’s glowing review in CityArts, in which he called it “hilarious” and compared it to Ernst Lubitsch (ISN’T IT OBVIOUS, PROLES?). I’ll provide the Armond White-to-English translation for you in a second, but before I do, I think it deserves an explanation. Yes, Armond White is probably trolling you. At the same time, his brand of militant contrarianism is actually kind of refreshing when compared to some of the over-the-top, torch-and-pitchfork shit you read from the conventional critics. For instance, here’s a snip from AO Scott’s New York Times review:
Mr. Sandler, done up in frumpy, bargain-shopper drag as Jill, gives full and relentless voice to the woman-hatred that has always propelled his infantile shtick.
Really, dude, “woman-hatred?” Does that also explain Opera Man, and Happy Gilmore? We get it, you don’t like farts, but not every batch of lousy pancakes is a fascist conspiracy. I bring this up in introduction to Armond White as a way to say that, while Armond White may not be the Armond White this city wants, he’s the Armond White this city needs.
Now then, let’s get to it.
Adam Sandler’s comedies are not “dumb fun”; maybe that’s why they’re not in critics’ favor.
“CRITICS LOVE DUMB FUN! NOT IN A MILLION YEARS COULD THEY HOPE TO APPRECIATE THE WITHERING SOCIAL CRITIQUE OF THE SANDLERIAN MILIEU! EVERYTHING YOU EVER THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT THE WORLD IS WRONG!”
Sandler’s hilarious new film Jack and Jill (in which he portrays both male and female fraternal twins), brings to mind the great line that Ernst Lubitsch’s classic 1946 female plumber comedy Cluny Brown “upset people who didn’t like to admit they have plumbing.”
“I’ll admit it! A-Dubz cleans his ass with a Crystal bidet! That clown Hoberman shits in a KFC bucket!”
All Sandler’s best comedies (Grown Ups, Bedtime Stories, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and the great Spanglish) are really love stories.
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY WAS A CASTIGATION OF CAPITALIST GREED SO DEVASTATING IT MAKES KARL MARX LOOK LIKE A SAUSAGE MAKER!
Sandler, of course, always goes back to Jewishness. He may be the least ethnically abashed Jewish film comic outside the Borscht Belt which is Jack and Jill’s natural strength. Jack’s self-consciousness about Jill is rooted in Jewish comics’ proverbial self-deprecation (that’s why the twinship premise). Jill’s large features, gaucheness, petulance and unsophisticated ways are not anti-Jewish traits but the qualities that insecure, social-climbing ethnic groups usually evade.
I FINALLY GET IT NOW! JILL IS THE HOOK-NOSED JEW COMEDIAN’S SELF-HATRED PERSONIFIED! SHYLOCK SANDLER, I CALL HER! (Sidenote: Holy shit, did he really just say that? To anyone who’s ever questioned me characterizing A-Dubz as a gangsta… Do you see now? Farrakhan just read that and went, ‘DAMN!’)
In Jill drag, Sandler looks like young women you see on the subway; she’s a homely archetype Fanny Brice, Judy Canova and Martha Raye made popular. (Eddie Murphy also mastered this comic affection in The Klumps and Norbit.) Credit Sandler’s subtle feminine caricature—especially in dancing and athleticism—that avoids making Jill a clownish grotesque like Tyler Perry’s Madea. Perry’s drag is based in parodying ethnic shame. In Jack and Jill Sandler embraces rude, crude and earthy in ways that Tyler Perry wouldn’t dare. Or will he ever?
“Adam Sandler knows how to dance and curtsy like a real lady, a lesson that moose-hoofed oaf Tyler Perry would do well to learn if he ever wants to get asked to the New York Film Critic Circle’s Annual Drag Ball!”
Sandler’s real dare is to defend ethnicity—not piously but through comedy that has social and political effect: When Jack’s WASP assistant (Nick Swardson) boasts that he’s almost Jewish because “I’m an atheist,” Jack looks nonplussed. Yet, Sandler isn’t. His comic introspection has a moral core. Appreciation of roots and background is what gives the film’s overlong but uproarious Al Pacino subplot its basis—it’s both crazily romantic and a professional salute. That’s because Sandler knows how our plumbing works.
“Sandler knows how our plumbing works.” If there’s a way to read that that doesn’t involve Armond White being satisfied that Adam Sandler can play a lady well enough to give him a boner, I don’t know what it is.