Nope…not gonna do it. There’s almost nothing on earth that can make me see this movie. No, no, no, no, no.
And, in that spirit, this will be a very, very quick Flashback. Let’s not waste each other’s time and all that, yes?
Instead let’s look back at one of the two quintessential Sandler offerings (the other being HAPPY GILMORE) and try to figure out how it is we got here.
MADISON is not, it must be a said, a smart movie. The dialogue doesn’t crackle, the characters don’t have surprising layers or impressive depth to them. It is actually a pretty standard clichéd story. Son’s a screw-up, by being a screw-up, he endangers the legacy of his father’s business, he straightens up and does dad proud. The twist, of course, is that to do so, Billy must go through every grade, from kindergarten to 12th, passing each, over the course of the next several months. Hilarity ensues.
And it is funny. Even now, I still laugh at this movie. The penguin gag is great. Chris Farley stripping as study motivation is a nice bit of misdirection. Sandler’s long rambling answer to an important question and the reaction to the answer are perfect. Bradley Whitford and (the late, great) Darren McGavin are great additions to any cast.
You can even feel the saccharine that sometimes seeps into Sandler’s movies first make its presence known here as, for one, Billy soaks his own pants with a water spout to protect a classmate from getting picked on for peeing in his. However, it’s kept pretty low-key and quick so it never feels cloying or stifling (see: BIG DADDY).
So how does this work and Sandler’s later movies are so dire?
The easiest explanation is what works when you are 29 is significantly less appropriate when you are 47. And there is no doubt something to that. But it doesn’t feel like that’s the whole answer to me. Or, at least, I hope it isn’t. I hope Sandler just didn’t wake up one day having reach some age threshold and BAM! that was it. Funny as a career choice, no longer an option.
Another possible explanation is nostalgia. It’s not that Sandler’s gotten older, it’s that I have. He’s still making the same kinds of movies, I’ve just aged out of them. Fourteen year old me just doesn’t have the same taste as 32 year old me does now. But then why does 32 year old me still get a legitimate kick out of BILLY MADISON?
Complacency could be part of it too. Sandler isn’t hungry for it anymore like he was back then. Plus, he’s tried serious and no one seems to take him up on it. LITTLE NICKY was soundly panned. No one showed up for SPANGLISH, REIGN OVER ME, or PUNCH DRUNK LOVER, really. He gave us super high concept (the devil’s son? For serious?) and he went serious and audiences more or less demanded “Dance for us, monkey. Be funny like we like you to. We reject your attempts to do different things.”
After that, who wouldn’t be tempted to l just crank out schlock and get that paycheck, right? And hey, why not cast all his friends so it is like hanging out, not just making a movie. (See also: OCEAN’S 13)
In the end, I imagine it is a bit from every category, plus some. We can only guess and theorize. What isn’t a theory is I recommend BILLY MADISON. How else will you find out if shampoo or conditioner is better?