We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
With Adam Sandler's Just Go With It (co-starring Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman) hitting theaters this weekend, we figured the time was right to revisit the funny-man's cinematic best. The release represents Sandler's 21st feature role -- does that number surprise anyone else? I waded through the pile and decided on the best of the best. So without further ado, here's my list of the TOP 7 Adam Sandler Films to date:
7. Funny People (2009)
Recap: When lonely comedian George Simmons (Sandler) learns of his terminal, inoperable health condition, his desire to form a genuine friendship causes him to take on a rookie comedian as a protege of sorts (Seth Rogen).
Reason: Though I've come to loathe Judd Apatow's more recent comedies, for his near constant failed attempts at combining heartfelt drama with gross-out humor, I did appreciate this film (for the most part) and did enjoy Sandler's performance a great deal. The film's major shortfall, in my opinion, was the length. This sucker just wouldn't end. I found Funny People to be the culmination of Sandler's brilliant combination of comedy and serious drama. Since 2002, Sandler has bounced back and forth between ridiculous comedy and heartfelt drama, and Funny People saw these two sides come together successfully in one role/film.
6. Mr. Deeds (2002)
Recap: A genuinely good, small-towner (Sandler) inherits a controlling stake in a gigantic media conglomerate and begins to do business his way, much to the chagrin of the genuinely evil, big-city folks who stand to lose their financial omnipotence due to the change.
Reason: My bet is that plenty of you reading this will say, "What!? Mr. Deeds in the TOP 7!? That's preposterous!" Maybe it is, but maybe it's not. If you're a Sandler fan at all, and you've never seen Mr. Deeds, possibly due to a movie critic's poor review (or lots of poor reviews -- the film received a 22% on rottentomatoes.com), I'd say you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Sure it's dumb, but it's also smartly hilarious at times, and with the excellent supporting cast in John Turturro, Winona Ryder and Peter Gallagher, you can't go wrong. This one falls squarely under the "ridiculous comedy" moniker mentioned above, and it's not masterfully crafted by any means, but if you want to laugh and forget the world, this is a great means to such an end. This film was a loose remake of Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), which could be, in part, why the critics were so hard on it. I do believe, if you go into this one with a relaxed brow, forgetful of the Capra-connection, and aren't too excited about hating it, there's a really good chance you'll enjoy it.
5. The Wedding Singer (1998)
Recap: Robbie Hart (Sandler), a singer, and Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore), a waitress, are both engaged to be married but to the wrong people. Serendipity intervenes to help them discover each other.
Reason: Sandler and Barrymore have such good chemistry together. They both maintain a goofy charisma; attractive yet fully capable of making complete fools of themselves. Sandler's penchant for silly songs made for the perfect marriage here. Gotta love the Billy Idol cameo too.
4. Reign Over Me (2007)
Recap: Charlie Fineman (Sandler), who lost his family in the September 11 attack on New York City, runs into his old college roommate (Don Cheadle). The rekindled friendship is the only thing that appears to help Fineman recover from his terrible grief.
Reason: I found this film to be remarkably touching, and found Sandler's performance to be shockingly spot on. I'd seen his dramatic chops effectively employed in 2002's Punch Drunk Love but Sandler has a knack for making one forget how talented an actor he really is (probably due to his constant dalliance with abject silliness). Reign Over Me falls squarely under the 'hearfelt drama' column, as it is an unflinching study of grief -- and not just everyday grief. The exposition of Charlie Fineman's story behind his grief, as performed by Sandler about halfway through the film, is just so tragic, and succeeds at imparting a sound reason behind why Fineman is so damn quirky, so doggone messed up -- it also served as the perfect reminder as to "Adam Sandler is a seriously good serious actor." Don Cheadle, Liv Tyler and Saffron Burrows added a lot to this film as well, but Sandler definitely stole the show.
3. Billy Madison (1995)
Recap: In order to inherit his father's hotel empire, an immature and lazy man (Sandler) must repeat grades 1-12 all over again.
Reason: Suddenly, this list effectively mirrors Sandler's bipolar career. Just when I was getting in deep, bragging up Sandler's brilliant dramatic acting chops, Billy Madison rears his brainless head. I'd say this film is a must-see for any Sandler fan -- kind of a ridiculous sentence in it of itself, as I'd argue that if you've not seen Billy Madison, and call yourself a Sandler fan, you're deluding yourself. This is vintage Sandler, and some might say, Sandler at his comedic best.
2. Punch Drunk Love (2002)
Recap: A beleaguered small-business owner (Sandler) gets a harmonium and embarks on a romantic journey with a mysterious woman (Emily Watson).
Reason: And again, we're swiftly back to serious drama. It was here, in auteur P.T. Anderson's beautifully crafted film, where Sandler first proved that he was more than just an SNL goofball, and in doing so, Sandler handily surprised the masses. This is easily my favorite dramatic film of Sandler's, and it would have come in at number one overall, if I weren't such a big fan of the game of golf.
1. Happy Gilmore (1996)
Recap: A rejected hockey player named Happy Gilmore (Sandler), puts his skills to the golf course to save his grandmother's house.
Reason: Best putting advice of all time: "It's all in the hips, it's all in the hips." This has got to be one of the most heavily quoted films ever made -- I suppose such sentiment could simply be my golfer-bias speaking, but I can't tell you how many times (both on and off the golf course) I've heard the lines, "here's a free lesson," "it's all in the hips," and "you will not make this putt...you jackass!" There are countless other brilliantly penned zingers all throughout Happy Gilmore, and I could spend a heck of a lot of time pasting them to this article here, but instead, let's just go pop the film in and watch it for the sixty-third time, shall we?
Sandler's portrayal of a quick-to-anger washed up hockey player is perfect, and is perfectly complemented by Christopher McDonald's famous portrayal of one of Hollywood's all time great baddies, Shooter McGavin -- "choke on that, baby!" Likely destined to go down in history as one of the best golf movies of all time, this film's rewatchability is off the charts, and in my opinion, ranks only barely behind the most famous golf comedy of all time, Caddyshack.