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Adam Sandler in a tough spot. His latest picture, "That's My Boy," just endured one of the worst opening weekends of his career. Moreover, audiences only gave the picture a B Cinemascore which is a bad sign for its long term prospects. The only silver lining is that reviews for "Boy" were a bit better than "Jack and Jill" last November (which isn't saying much).
While audiences have kept Sandler at the top of the box office consistently since "Billy Madison" 17 years ago, critics have rarely been on board with Sandler's brand of broad comedy. Unfortunately, the overall quality of his films may finally be catching up with him. Many in the industry are blaming the Razzie-winning "Jack and Jill" on the poor debut of "Boy," but it's clearly more of a cumulative effect of forgettable flicks such as "Grown Ups" and "Just Go With It." And, unfortunately, when Sandler has taken chances with a drama such as "Reign Over Me" or a dramedy such as "Funny People" (both films where Sandler received great individual reviews) the disappointing financial results seem to have scared him off from going in a different direction.*
*The one exception being "Punch-Drunk Love." An indie experiment Sandler has shown no intention of exploring again.
At this point, Sandler is currently in production on "Grown Ups 2" which could either temporarily put him back in moviegoers good graces or be another "surprising" disappointment. The 45-year-old is also expected to reunite with Kevin James for the comedy "Valet Guys," but whether the film will be green lit at this point remains to be seen.
Ever since his years on "SNL," Sandler has displayed an every-man charisma and willingness to put himself in embarrassing situations or characters for the benefit of his audience. Not every comedic actor of his generation would be willing to go where he's gone over the years and, even he would likely admit, it hasn't always worked out. Will the shock of "Boy's" performance convince Sandler he needs to make some changes on the creative side? We'd certainly like to think so. Taking all this into account, here are five suggestions we hope Sandler will take to extend his career.
1. Sometimes being too loyal doesn't work in a creative medium
Sandler and his producing partner Jack Giarraputo have a tremendous amount of creative control with the films they make and have consistently pulled from the same pool of directors, actors, screenwriters, costumers, you name it. Sandler tried to go in a different direction on "Boy" with Sean Anders ("Hot Tub Time Machine"), but he's usually in the hands of Dennis Dugan (six and about to be seven times), Peter Segal (three times) and Frank Coraci (three times). It's arguably worse in front of the camera. It's one thing to reunite with Chris Rock or Steve Buscemi, but the consistent use of Kevin James (four times), David Spade, Colin Quinn, Nick Swardson (seven times) and Rob Schneider (11 times) puts a second-rate and increasingly out-of-touch spin on his films. There is something incredibly admirable about providing work for your friends in Hollywood. Especially when you set up and produce smaller commercial films to, um "help" their careers ("Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," "Grandma's Boy"). To say such loyalty is rare in the movie industry is an understatement, but it's becoming a burden to Sandler's reputation with moviegoers.
2. Don't be afraid to make smaller films again
Outside of "Punch-Drunk Love," Sandler really hasn't delved into independent cinema. "Reign Over Me" was framed as an indie, but had a studio price tag of $20 million and was marketed like a major release. He's spoken previously about how nervous it makes him to star in more dramatic roles (he famously dropped out of Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds") , but at this point even making an unconventional comedy -- even in a supporting role or ensemble piece -- could really help fuel his creativity. It might even be an eye-opener to filmmakers who may not have considered Sandler open to jumping outside his comfort zone in the past.
3. Better Team-Ups
As noted, Sandler clearly loves working with friends such as James and Rock, but why did we never see him in a movie with Jim Carrey at Carrey's career height? Why hasn't he teamed up with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Steve Carell or even "SNL" vets such as Will Ferrell or Eddie Murphy? (We're not sure "Boy's" Samberg counts as a star yet.) Sandler was fantastic with Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and up and comers such as Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari in "People," why didn't he reunite with any of them in his next few films? Or actors of that ilk? One of his biggest hits pitted him against Jack Nicholson ("Anger Management"). Why wouldn't he try an unexpected pairing like that again?
4. Make another Sports flick
One thing that Sandler has been known for is his association to professional sports and films such as "Happy Gilmore" ("Caddyshack" for a younger generation), "The Waterboy" and "The Longest Yard." The latter two wouldn't be considered classics, but from a commercial standpoint they appeal dirtily to his longtime male fan base. A huge NBA fan, Sandler still hasn't made a real basketball comedy yet. Why not now?
5. Don't be afraid to make another R-rated movie
In many ways, teaming up with Samberg in "Boy" and going in an R-rated direction was a "change" from Sandler's recent filmography. Before "Boy," the only other R-rated comedy Sandler had starred in was "Funny People." Studio executives will try to sell Sandler's camp that his audience is so family-friendly he needs to stick to PG-13 films, but ask Eddie Murphy how long that strategy can last creatively. There have been numerous box office blockbusters that were R-rated over the past decade. Sandler's on screen persona should be a perfect fit for the right R-rated edgier material. Perhaps the third time's the charm?
Do you think Sandler can turn the tide? Share your thoughts below.