I’m sure by now that you’ve seen the non-stop barrage of commercials for Bucky Larson, and I assume that because they have been scorched into my brain because of their needlessly obnoxious delivery. The movie itself looks like standard Happy Madison fare, but for some reason the commercials have Peter Dante – more on him later – yelling at us about why we should see the film like we are complete morons. I honestly can’t decide whether I’m more annoyed or fascinated by the commercials.
What is the point of Dante yelling terrible jokes at us? Is he portraying his character in the film? Are we supposed to know this? Better yet, are we supposed to know who he is? I decided to answer that last question myself, as well as the question “Who the hell are these guys and why should we accept them as comedy stars?”
*Side Note: Not all movies associated to each actor are Happy Madison productions. They’re mostly just top-of-my-head examples.
Role: The Leading Man
Films: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Grown Ups, etc.
So Who the Hell is He: We all know Sandler pretty well so we don’t exactly need a crash course on his background. Like many people my age (somewhere between 21 and 65) I have fond memories of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, so much so that I won’t watch them anymore because I’m afraid to lose my joy for them. I’ve seen most of Sandler’s movies, as I watched Grown Ups last year specifically to see if it was worthy of my Worst Movies of 2010 list. It earned the No. 1 spot.
As he has proven in films like Punch Drunk Love and Funny People (not a great movie but he was still good), Sandler has the ability to be awesome. Yet for some reason he retreats to painfully unfunny films like Zohan, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and the upcoming Jack and Jill. In fact, Jack and Jill has me believing that he’s outright mocking us now.
But my greatest criticism of Sandler is that which I respect most in a person – his loyalty. His films may be terrible. I may abhor them with every ounce of my body. But they make money and they put food on his friends’ tables. I just wish his friends cared enough about him to tell him that it’s OK to put some effort into his work.
UPDATE 1: Call it a complete brain fart to not mention this, but to be fair and not make this a complete negative, critical attack, I loved The Wedding Singer. I wish Happy Madison would use that film as a template, as opposed to rehashing old characters that never worked for Sandler in the first place (Cajun Boy was fine on SNL but not in The Waterboy, for instance).
Role: The Utility Man
Films: Deuce Bigalow, The Hot Chick, The Animal, The Benchwarmers
So Who the Hell is He: It seems like Schneider’s role within the organization has toned down over the past few years, after a run of leading roles that ranked somewhere between horse and dog on the fecal-ometer. Most of his recent starring efforts haven’t even reached the big screen, with films like American Virgin and The Chosen One – which I have actually seen and it was neither funny (if it was even meant to be a comedy) nor was it good – going straight to DVD. Schneider’s greatest strength for Happy Madison is that he plays quirky lesser roles in every film.
Since 2007’s Big Stan (you never saw it), Schneider has been trying his hand at directing as well. He also directed The Chosen One, which I reiterate – was awful. He had his moment in the sun as Richard Laymer (“Making copies…”) on “Saturday Night Live,” but all of his success – like being able to make out with inexplicably hotter female co-stars – boils down to Sandler.
Role: The A-Hole
Films: Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Grown Ups, The Benchwarmers
So Who the Hell is He: This may sound bad, but had Chris Farley never died, I think David Spade would be a comedy legend. The two of them together made for a classic comedy duo, because by themselves (or with Matthew Perry) they were, well, just themselves. But that’s not to say that I don’t thoroughly enjoy most of Spade’s efforts. He may be the one guy in Happy Madison’s stable that knows what his strengths are – mostly just being a sarcastic dick – and plays on them.
Spade is hardly leading man material – he’s reportedly 3 apples high – but even his worst films (Dickie Roberts was atrocious) still have a little charm to them. For instance, I don’t know any people who dislike Joe Dirt. I don’t think it’s a good movie by any means, but I don’t hate it. He knows what we expect from him and he never tries to overcompensate. For most people that’s a terrible trait, but up against his peers it’s a godsend.
Role: The Black Guy
Films: Head of State, Bad Company, Grown Ups, The Longest Yard
So Who the Hell is He: Rock has never really been one of the usual suspects in Happy Madison’s gang. In fact, aside from Beverly Hills Ninja, he never had much to do with his former SNL cohorts until he appeared in The Longest Yard, Sandler’s unnecessary remake of the 1970s classic. I’d argue that Rock deserved an Oscar for his role in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, but aside from that, he’s not a good actor. At all. Bad Company may be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, and proof that Anthony Hopkins sold his soul to Lucipher.
My gut tells me that fried anything is delicious, but it also tells me that Rock’s involvement in The Longest Yard and Grown Ups was more about the paycheck than his friendship with Sandler. He’ll always have selling power and name recognition, which may suggest that Sandler needs him more than the other way around.
Role: The Fat Guy
Films: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Hitch, Zookeeper
So Who the Hell is He: While I don’t remember it at all, James made his first appearance with the Happy Madison clan in 50 First Dates. Admittedly, that’s one of Sandler’s rare movies that I can tolerate when it’s being aired non-stop on TBS. Since then, James became a full-timer with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which I think was actually a step backwards in the equal rights movement, and he has of course relegated himself to a career of cheap “Haha the fat guy fell down” jokes.
Back in 2001, James released the stand-up comedy special, “Sweat the Small Stuff.” If you’ve never seen it, I think it’s available on Netflix, but I really enjoyed it. He’s a funny comedian, which just goes to show that stand-up doesn’t always translate well to movies. However, criticism be damned, because people will always love humor of the lowest common denominator, so James will always be gleefully employed.
UPDATE 2: As wonderful commenter Beeks informed me, the Happy Madison offices were right next door to the set of “The King of Queens,” so that’s how Sandler and James hooked up. That reminds me – how was a show that had Jerry Stiller and Patton Oswalt not funny?