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.
6) You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Until a few months ago, this was perhaps my least favorite Sandler film. One day, I Tweeted a complaint toward FX for airing it, and a friend emailed me and said something like, “Hey man, this isn’t a terrible movie, you should give it another shot.” I did, and with the exception of Michael Buffer and Dave Matthews trying to be actors, this wasn’t a bad movie at all. It was actually really charming and very funny at times, and I think that it’s just buried by the last 10 years of diaper movies.
7) Eight Crazy Nights
This might be one of the best original holiday films since A Christmas Story and one of the only animated movies that should actually be shown a lot come December. It’s way better than all that Rudolph and Charlie Brown nonsense that pretends to teach kids morals and lessons about peace and good will.
8) Hotel Transylvania
If Sandler decided to make animated films for the rest of his career instead of 12 more Grown Ups movies, Hotel Transylvania would be a good sign of things to come. The only problem with this kind of movie from Happy Madison’s perspective is that the actors won’t get to go on a free, studio-paid vacation so they can half-ass their ways through some jokes that they’ve all told a dozen times before, while letting children say stupid things for cheap laughs.
9) Big Daddy
I used to love Big Daddy. When I saw it way back in 1999, when Sandler’s movies were still opening weekend must-see films, I thought it was another instant classic, but as the years passed, it has lost some of its charm. It’s still a movie that I can watch when there’s absolutely nothing else on, and I don’t feel like watching any of the 104 Simpsons episodes on my DVR, but I notice things now when I’m watching it, like the overuse of pointless popular music and recycled gags, which is obviously more of a slight on more recent films. Regardless, I still like Big Daddy.
This was not a well-written movie, and it definitely didn’t give us Damon Wayans or Sandler at their best, but it made for a decent enough buddy cop movie. It’s definitely one of the most forgettable Sandler films, since any time that I end up talking about Sandler movies that I’ve liked, I always end the conversation with, “Oh yeah, and that one with James Caan and that really attractive girl who we never heard from again.”
This is probably Sandler’s best all-around role. I know it’s not the funniest movie, nor is it really a compelling drama beyond the relationship of Flor and her daughter. And Deborah (Tea Leoni) is really, really annoying and I spend the entire movie hoping that the story somehow changed and john leaves her right away. The reason that I probably like Sandler in Spanglish so much is because he’s surrounded by off-setting performances and it somehow makes him stand out.
12) Anger Management
You know how when the point of a character in a movie is to be extremely obnoxious and annoying so you empathize with the protagonist and hate that dickhead, too? Jack Nicholson did that so well in Anger Management that I hate the movie for it. I know it’s not a bad movie, but I can’t watch it ever again. (However, that’s also partially because Charlie Sheen very lazily stole the title for his horrendous TV series, so it’s hatred by association.)
13) The Longest Yard
The original film DID NOT need to be remade, specifically in some sort of perverted ESPN cross-production. Of course, my buddy Burt Reynolds wasn’t going to turn down that paycheck and – I know this sounds weird – if anyone was going to remake this movie, I’m kind of glad that it was Sandler’s crew (pun kind of intended), because it wasn’t terrible. There was actually some heart and decent acting in The Longest Yard.
14) 50 First Dates
I hate admitting this, because it hurts my macho street cred, but I actually like 50 First Dates. It’s not a good movie at all, but there’s just something sweet enough about it that makes it tolerable, be it that aforementioned Sandler charm or even the simple little nod to Chris Farley. Also, I’m a sucker for jokes about guys wearing mesh tank tops.
15) Funny People
The key criticism against Funny People is usually that it’s a great movie that goes way too long. That is very true and it’s why I’ve only ever watched it one time. I do not have the patience to sit through 2 hours and 25 minutes of any movie, even if it’s a great story told by, well, funny people.
16) Mr. Deeds
The best joke in this movie all these years later is how Deeds buys all of his friends matching Corvettes at the end, seeing as he celebrated the inexplicable success of Grown Ups by actually purchasing brand new Maseratis for all of his friends. Other than that, and beyond John Turturro’s obsession with changing socks, I can’t ever remember a good joke from this movie.
17) The Waterboy
People love this movie and still shout, “You can do eet!” at sporting events across the world, because remember that funny thing that the funny guy from that funny show said? It wasn’t exactly Sandler’s worst effort at a HILARIOUS voice, because that honor goes to that butchering of a Boston accent in That’s My Boy. But The Waterboy was just one long joke about a simpleton with superhuman strength, highlighted by lame sight gags like Blake Clark with nipple rings.
18) I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
This movie could have been a really intelligent way of supporting marriage equality and basic human rights, at least by crafting good adult humor in a way that it made people think a little more about their own prejudices. Instead, it was just one long parade of terrible stereotypes, in addition to arguably Sandler’s greatest casting job with Jessica Biel as his love interest, that was ultimately outdone in humor by Armond White’s glowing review that included this amazing gem:
“It’s a modern classic (despite a cheap-shot plug for Giuliani). By comparison, Hollywood’s most celebrated gay comedies — In and Out, Chuck and Buck, Blades of Glory, even the laughable Brokeback Mountain — were all failures of nerve.”
Armond White is the f*cking best.
Click was mostly a casting clusterf*ck that made it feel like Sandler and Co. cared less about telling jokes and more about making the actors the punchline. Because there’s really no point in having David Hasselhoff in anything, unless the point is for people to stare blankly at the screen and mumble, “Hurr hurr David Hasselhurrf got furrted on, hurr furt furt.”
20) Bedtime Stories
I might feel differently about this one if I had children, because it was a cute enough idea, even if it was a little contrived and the best jokes were the special effects. Bottom line, if I’m going to make my kid watch a movie about a guy who works in a hotel, it’s going to be Billy Madison. The dirty version, too. Not that Saturday afternoon, edited for TV nonsense.
As I already mentioned, the advantage that Blended had over some of these other stink bombs was that it featured Terry Crews, who is impossible not to like. Sandler could probably, at the very least, keep making his standard recent tripe with Drew Barrymore dumping all kinds of different soup on herself, while distracting us with cameos from really popular current comedic actors.
22) Just Go With It
This was Sandler’s masterpiece of combining his joy of using crappy, formulaic movie ideas to get free vacations for him and his friends with the opportunity to hook up with very attractive models and actresses. I like to think that when Sandler pitched this one, he was looking around the room and saw Brooklyn Decker on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and he said, “Oh yeah, and that girl is in it and my character has sex with her.”
23) Reign Over Me
Count me among the people who didn’t think it was ever necessary for this movie or any others like it to use 9/11 as a plot device. But to its credit, Reign Over Me wasn’t nearly as terrible as Remember Me.
24) Little Nicky
I still remember seeing this movie in theaters and laughing like an a-hole at all of the bad jokes. Every once in a while, when it’s airing on FXX or USA, I watch some of Little Nicky and try to remember what I thought was so funny, and I’m pretty sure the answer has always been marijuana.
25) Grown Ups
What a brave comedic effort to take a good look at how hilarious it is when people grow up and become parents. I mean, nothing like this had ever been done before, so it was great that people all over the world flocked to theaters to help Grown Ups earn $271 million.
26) Grown Ups 2
This movie was only made because Sandler’s Happy Madison films were starting to slow down at the box office, so he and the gang decided to rehash all of the same jokes while tossing in some new famous faces to distract us from the fact that there was never a story in the first place for a follow-up to be necessary. By the end of the theater run, this dog’s ass of a movie made $246 million worldwide. That’s more than $500 million for the franchise, so keep an eye out for Grown Ups 3 news.
At least in this one, a deer pissed in Sandler’s face.
27) Going Overboard
If you’ve never seen Going Overboard, I recommend you watch it. Despite being a hot hunk of dog fart, it was made when Sandler was at his rawest and most absurd, around the same time that he appeared on Remote Control as a variety of characters, including the delightful “Stud Boy.”
28) Jack and Jill
I hope that one day soon, when the Academy decides to honor Al Pacino with a lifetime achievement award, he comes to the stage after a beautiful speech by someone like Jamie Foxx or Keanu Reeves, and then they just show his scenes from Jack and Jill. And then someone at the LAPD can grow some balls and investigate the drugging and/or blackmailing that led to him accepting a role in this movie.
1,000,000,000,000,000,000) That’s My Boy
My idea of hell is being forced to watch this movie of recycled and terrible 80s jokes combined with a horrid and woefully unfunny incest punchline with people who actually think that it’s funny. I’d take the pineapple scene in Little Nicky over it any time.