Every Adam Sandler Comedy, Ranked

Adam Sandler has never been a critical darling. This information is practically a cliché; even the movies now regarded as his early, funny ones didn’t exactly receive glowing notices during their original runs, and as the audience that enjoyed his early comedies aged into possible critical-establishment roles, they, too, came to lament the low quality of his vehicles. As a former fifteen-year-old, I think I can attest that this isn’t just grumpiness or nostalgia setting in: I dutifully see Adam Sandler comedies not because they’re usually good, but because they can be good, and I want them to be good. Regardless of what we pointy-headed types may look at as diminished returns, Sandler has remained a popular movie star (in his comedies, at least) for close to twenty years by this point. He may not have hit the same box office or critical highs as fellow SNL players turned movie stars like Will Ferrell or Mike Myers, but in terms of pure numbers, he’s probably the most financially successful (depending on how you count Eddie Murphy’s more erratic mix of massive hits and huge flops).

Though they do vary in quality, it’s his consistency that has come to define his career. The sheer uniformity of his output remains almost unmatched: the vast majority of movies starring Adam Sandler come from his Happy Madison production company, with multiple writing, directing, and/or producing credits from Sandler’s usual gang of buddies, associates, and hangers-on (for these purposes, movies made with Sandler’s usual screenwriters, producers, and/or directors before the official creation of the Happy Madison shingle count towards that total).

This includes the twenty-one movies that I’ve fudged into a top (or bottom) twenty below. This list does not include the more serious movies he has made for other people every two to four years (Punch-Drunk Love; Spanglish; Reign Over Me; Funny People); his voiceover work in Hotel Transylvania (borderline, because it features Sandler’s buddies in supporting roles and a co-writing credit from Robert Smigel, but is also very much of the Sony Animation house style and presumably would have been made without Sandler’s participation); or his sole action-comedy, Bulletproof. Sandler also did supporting roles in a couple of unsuccessful comedies in 1994: Airheads and Mixed Nuts. I have seen them both; let’s leave it at that.

For each Official Adam Sandler Comedy, I’ve included notes on which of Sandler’s team of SNL writers (most often Tim Herlihy; sometimes Fred Wolf, Robert Smigel, or Steve Koren) and journeyman directors (Dennis Dugan, Frank Coraci, Peter Segal, Steve Brill) get credit, along with counts of how many SNL performers he manages to hire. I have not included Allen Covert, Peter Dante, or Jonathan Loughran in these counts; just assume that all of them are in all of these movies and that Covert produces most of them, even if that’s not literally true. I’m also avoiding doing a Nick Swardson tally. He’s been in eight of these. It feels like more. Finally, I’ve noted Sandler’s myriad love interests, not only because they represent a surprisingly and weirdly diverse cross-section of name actresses from the past few decades, but also because it’s worth noting how many of them are significantly younger than he is, even (especially) when he’s playing a total man-child.

Sandler’s consistency makes the task of ranking his films perhaps even more fruitless than the usual list-making; both his best and his worst can be considered toss-ups, especially when you subtract the easy outs of Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People, which are the two best movies he’s actually appeared in. But closer study does reveal not just the way Sandler repeats himself, but the way his repetitions accommodate subtle shifts, occasional jumps in quality or particularly ill-advised detours. (Longer essays or reviews I’ve written about some of these films are linked to their titles, when available.)

Herewith, your intro to those Adam Sandler studies.
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Why the X-Men Movies Are Better than the Marvel Cinematic Universe

When Bryan Singer’s X-Men was released on July 14, 2000, it was the first big superhero movie of that summer. It was also the first big superhero movie of the year. It was also the first big superhero movie since Mystery Men, a superhero spoof based on a comic book hardly anyone had heard of, flopped a year earlier. The last superhero/comics movie to hit before X-Men was the first Blade movie in 1998. The summer before that, the major superhero movies were Batman & Robin, Spawn, and Steel, starring Shaquille O’Neal.

X-Men‘s unexpected status as the most financially successful superhero movie that did not feature Batman or Superman emboldened movie studios to produce additional superhero movies, no longer mortally afraid that they were making the next Steel. Likewise, the fact that X-Men took the X-Men seriously encouraged audiences to attend superhero movies, no longer mortally afraid that they would wind up seeing a movie starring Shaquille O’Neal or Spawn. Spider-Man followed in 2002, hitting even bigger; Daredevil, Hulk, Fantastic Four, a new Batman series, some more Superman, and two even bigger X-Men movies followed — all before Iron Man re-kickstarted the genre by establishing Marvel Studios in 2008.

I begin by establishing the lineage of Singer’s X-Men because given the deluge that followed, for a lot of people, that’s what it represents: the laying of respectable groundwork for what followed. To be sure, the series as a whole has its fans, and probably some of those fans think back fondly on the first movie. But with its middling special effects, abbreviated running time, lack of massive spectacle, and reputation as a movie exceeded both by its immediate sequel and many superhero adventures that followed, I think it’s safe to say that most fans of comic book movies would place that first movie (and likely most if not all of its sequels) somewhere below The Avengers, the Captain Americas, at least two of the Iron Mans, and one or two Thors, and maybe somewhere above Spider-Man 3, Elektra, or the various attempts to start a Hulk franchise on the Marvel Movie Continuum.

I think it’s also safe to say most fans of comic book movies are incorrect.

The subject of the most ardent fan and even critical approval these days — among movies based on Marvel Comics — are the ones that come directly from Marvel Studios. Here I should note that I like all of those movies, with the possible exception of The Incredible Hulk, which I would have a stronger opinion about if I could remember at all. I would even venture to say that I like Iron Man 2 far more than anyone you know, and that I was on board with Captain America even before Winter Soldier. But when The Avengers, a movie that very nearly made my Ten Best list for 2012, came out, one of my main thoughts about it was: Finally! A Marvel Studios movie that I like nearly as much as the best X-Men and Spider-Man movies!

Let me explain.
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What the X-Men Movies Get Wrong About Westchester

I grew up in Westchester County.  I still work there, and my family still lives there. I know Westchester.

So, while Queens has Spider-Man, Metropolis has Superman, and Gotham has Batman—though the nickname “Gotham” was given to New York City by Washington Irving, a writer who lived in Westchester—Westchester has the X-Men. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the X-Men HQ, is said to be in “Salem Center,” a fictional hamlet in North Salem, a real town in northern Westchester County.

Out in the suburbs, we support our superhero team. I remember seeing X-Men with an excited crowd on opening night, in a theater that’s now a fancy Alamo Drafthouse. (Back then, it was a dinky UA/Regal.) When they mentioned that Xaviar’s school was in Westchester, the theater broke out into applause.

And yet, none of the X-Men movies have, to my expert opinion, really captured the spirit of living out in Westchester. Here’s why.

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Godzilla ’98

My friends and I did go to see the 1998 version of Godzilla three times in the theaters. This is a story about that although not what actually happened.

We graduate high school in four and a half weeks but first: Godzilla. On the balance, we’ve spent more time planning for Godzilla. Ivan explained it best: graduation is already set. Maybe some of the dumb kids have to sweat passing classes or getting credits, but the four of us have been cruising for months, or at least since I found out I wouldn’t fail gym for cutting most of the last quarter. We aren’t planning the ceremony, we don’t have to pick out clothes, people will tell us where to line up and where to sit, parents will plan the parties and order the macaroni salad and the cake with our pictures on it. But none of those parents or teachers or guidance counselors got us set up with Godzilla. We had to figure that out ourselves.

It started last summer when we saw the trailer where Godzilla’s foot came down and crushed a dinosaur skeleton in a museum, which was a clever way of saying fuck dinosaurs and fuck the movie you’re about to see which was The Lost World, which we still argue about on roughly forty percent of car rides: Henry and I pro, Chuck and Ivan more con.

Godzilla would obviously not invite this kind of controversy.
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Godzilla Extracurriculars

In the first fifty years of his illustrious career, Godzilla starred in 28 films (29 if you count 1998’s American Godzilla; he doesn’t ). He’s returning to reclaim his title as King of the Monsters in his 60th year, with a new major motion picture after a ten year hiatus. But while I assume we’re all wrapping up our four week Godzilla-thon rewatch all of the films, let’s also make time to remember his role as public figure outside of the films…and as a pitchman. Continue reading Godzilla Extracurriculars

HAIM Is the Best Band and Could Be Improved

Sportsalcohol.com co-founder Sabrina introduced me to HAIM about a year ago via their song “Forever,” before they had a proper album out. I cannot recall liking a band more instantly. Days Are Gone came out on my birthday last year, and I bought it and loved it also more or less immediately. Then, finally, after a lifetime of hard work, Marisa and I were rewarded with seeing HAIM at Terminal 5 in Manhattan last night with SportsAlcohol.com contributing bassist Jeremy, and it was fantastic. The ladies of HAIM rocked out, whipped around their hair and their different types of charisma, and the show was every bit as good as it should have been — maybe better, considering it was an hour-plus set built around exactly one album. Basically anyone who has enjoyed the band on that album would have a great time at their show.

I mean, check out this setlist:

Falling
If I Could Change Your Mind
Oh Well [Fleetwood Mac cover]
Honey & I
Days Are Gone
My Song 5
Running If You Call My Name
Don’t Save Me
Forever

XO [Beyonce cover]
The Wire
Let Me Go

AND YET: was this my ideal HAIM setlist? No. No, it was not. As good as the show was, I saw many ways it could have bee improved. Herewith, my ideal fantasy setlist for HAIM:

Falling
If I Could Change Your Mind
Wrecking Ball [Miley Cyrus cover]
Teenage Dream [Katy Perry cover]
Bizarre Love Triangle [New Order cover]
[pause for hair tutorial]
Honey & I
[banter about how cool Marisa and Jesse look out in the crowd]
Marisa and Jesse Are Our New Best Friends [new song]
Jeremy Is Also Super Cool [new song]
Days Are Gone
My Song 5
[screening of new Godzilla movie]
Running If You Call My Name
Don’t Save Me
Belle [cover of song from Beauty and the Beast]
Forever

XO [Beyonce cover]
Countdown [Beyonce cover]
Radio [Beyonce cover]
Irreplaceable [Beyonce cover]
Let Me Go
The Wire
The Wire
The Wire
Marisa and Jesse Are Our New Best Friends [reprise]

Maybe next HAIM.

HAIM darker