This past week, Adam Sandler won the distinguished Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It’s awarded annually to a comedian who’s been in the game so long, that they have become a household name. Winners in the past include: Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, and Whoopi Goldberg. This award has only been given to the all-time greats since it’s inception in 1998. The award show is structured the same every year, where the honoree has a few close friends say some nice things on their behalf, before the recipient does a bigger speech at the end to wrap up the night. I watch this show every year because I love comedy and I do believe that we should honor the greats. The Will Ferrell speech is also one of the greatest acceptance speeches that I’ve ever watched. But in reality, this award is only the tip of the iceberg for Sandler. The truth is that Sandler is one of the all time greats in American entertainment, even with all his misses.
My first Adam Sandler movie was Zohan. You know what’s funny? I was like maybe 10 years old when I watched that film in theaters with my mother and it was definitely not the right movie to watch. I just loved comedy and I knew it was a comedy so I gave it a go. Something else that is peculiar was that at that age, you can’t really tell what is good or bad in the media you consume but this was probably the first movie that I had ever watched and thought that it wasn’t good. So I started off poorly. But as a comedy fan, you start to see that this guy is everywhere and not just that but he’s been doing it for a long time. I feel like every millennial grew up watching Water Boy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and his other classics. You start to realize that Sandler is actually incredible at comedy even though some of his movies actually suck.
But I do believe that his shitty movies are not necessarily because he’s inadequate or because he’s not funny, I think he just writes and creates whatever he wants to create, without thinking about what could go wrong. Considering how horrendous his run on Netflix is, the fact that Netflix still considers him as someone who can bring eyeballs, is noteworthy. There are people like me who are staunch Sandler supporters and will ride for him no matter how bad of a run he’s going on. Simply because we know that he’s talented and that he’s a charming funny man. C’mon ladies, we’ve all fallen victim to a charming white man before, haven’t we?
Us staunch Sandler supporters were vindicated when Uncut Gems was released in 2019. The past decade of bad Sandler films left a bad taste in the mouth of the general public. So Uncut Gems allowed for people to see who he truly was – an actor who can become whoever he wants to be. If I’m being honest here, I didn’t even like that film very much. He was definitely great in that role but let’s not pretend like Sandler doesn’t do drama well and that was a one-off. Even in films with mixed reviews like Reign On Me and Funny People – his performances were top notch, even. Sandler has always been a good actor, it’s just that the general population would rather see him as a funny man, like he was in the 90’s.
However there were about three films that made me love Sandler. As a high school football player, The Longest Yard was something that I loved. Although the film is a comedy, his character is definitely dramatic, relative to the rest of the cast. To this day, The Wedding Singer is my all time fave rom-com. It has that 90’s Sandler charm, it’s poppy, it’s smart – it’s just a great rom-com and Sandler’s and Drew Barrymore’s chemistry in that film is untouchable. Lastly, the film that made me see him as an acting genius was Punch Drunk Love. I can’t really describe the film, it’s a drama – it’s fantastic, he’s fantastic, and if you haven’t seen it before – watching it will convince you that Sandler is one of the all time greats.
Overall, I really appreciate Sandler for the core messages of all his characters and films. Just like Rocky is an underdog story, so is every Sandler character. His characters always start their journeys in humble beginnings, life doesn’t ever go well, but based on the merit of the character, there’s always a happy ending. Will life always end well? Probably not. But it’s that optimism and vulnerability in his roles that make you hope for better tomorrows. As a Hong Konger, he really does remind me of Stephen Chow.
Anyways, enough of me putting him on a pedestal. Let’s have you put him on a pedestal. Is he good? Is he bad? What’s your fave Sander film? Let me know in the comments.