With the summer movie season in the books and the fall “awards movies” making the rounds at some of the bigger film festivals in Venice and Toronto, among others, it’s about that time of year that I start to catch up on the list of films that I’ve been keeping track of for my Worst Movies of 2014 feature. In another three months, it will be time to celebrate the best of the year’s worst, while openly pondering whether I made the wrong decision in ranking Safe Haven fourth last year, as its hilariously bad ending has grown on me as one of the worst things that I have ever seen in a movie in my lifetime. As for this year, while I still have quite the list of movies to watch before December 15, there’s a really good chance that this could be the first year ever that the same actor stars in the Top 2 worst films on my list. Who that actor may be will remain a mystery for now.
Who it won’t be is Adam Sandler, a comedy icon who turns 48-years old tomorrow and celebrated over the weekend by attending the Toronto International Film Festival to promote his new drama, Men, Women and Children. Unlike his other 2014 film, Blended, which was a movie about an actor who takes all of his actor friends on vacation to Africa, Men, Women and Children has the typically goofy actor taking a far darker turn as a sex addicted parent, and Jason Reitman’s film is earning decent reviews. As for the unexpected return to drama, Sandler told the audience at TIFF: “I told Jason: ‘This thing gives me such a stomach ache I’m having a hard time wanting to be in it.’ I was just so nervous about it. I guess the thing that made me the most nervous was my kids seeing this movie one day and knowing how painful this movie is.”
Sandler in a painful movie? As if his kids aren’t going to see Jack and Jill someday. But since I’ve promoted Sandler and Happy Madison to my Worst Movies Hall of Fame with anything that has ‘Madea’ in the title or involves Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, and especially since I didn’t actually dislike Blended as much as I thought I would – Terry Crews is obviously to thank for that – I wanted to be a little positive today for Sandler’s birthday. Much in the same way that I like to think that years of bagging on Rivers Cuomo for Weezer’s nonstop crapfest of albums seems to have gotten his head back in the game for the band’s upcoming album, I thought it was a good time to celebrate Sandler’s best work (before trashing his worst work, since it’s all hand-in-hand) so that maybe… just maybe… we can hear him use a stupid voice again and not immediately want to punch a puppy.
(Notice that I’m starting from No. 1 so that we can all watch ourselves go from happy to miserable. Also, these are mostly starring roles, except for one film, so don’t ask where Dirty Work is, because if I counted that, it would be No. 3.)
1) Happy Gilmore
These first two films could be interchangeable, but my team of researchers believes that this film not only holds up better, but features more quotable lines and memorable characters. And while we could probably have a gentleman’s debate about the topic for days, I strongly believe that Virginia Venit > Veronica Vaughn, no matter how much backlash I know is coming for that. Likewise, and far more importantly, “The price is wrong, bitch” is a way better line for everyday conversation than “Stop looking at me swan.”
2) Billy Madison
That’s not to say that Billy Madison isn’t a wonderful movie that stands the test of time. Although, in recent years, I have come to question the authenticity and scientific merit of the possibility that a banana peel, especially one that has aged over a considerable period of time, could cause a station wagon carrying an entire family of large men to spin out of control and drive over a cliff. My research in this matter is ongoing.
3) Punch-Drunk Love
This movie is awesome to the point that it depresses me when I watch it, because I think of the movies that Sandler went on to make and I get really angry and want to destroy every copy of this movie on Earth as punishment for people helping Grown Ups earn more than 10 times Punch-Drunk Love at the box office.
4) The Wedding Singer
I know some people who don’t like this movie at all, but I think that it’s the best example of what Sandler should have been doing for the bulk of his A-list career. It was the perfect blend of nostalgia and cornball comedy, all glued together with Sandler’s classic doofus charm. I strongly recommend that anyone who doesn’t understand the growing vitriol for Sandler watch The Wedding Singer and then That’s My Boy in one evening, because the gap between the two ultimately similar films is astounding.
Again, this is all about starring roles, but Sandler’s Pip basically saved Airheads from being a fun idea that was ruined by some really questionable casting. Brendan Fraser had a lot of potential when he was younger, but making him the edgy, rebellious leader of a 90s metal band? With Steve Buscemi as the bassist? Joe Mantegna as the hip rock radio station DJ? David Arquette being paid to act in anything ever? Sandler’s performance deserves to be praised for making Airheads such a fun movie to watch all of these years later, despite its glaring flaws.