Adam ‘The Sandman’ Sandler is a big movie star: no seriously, he is. His movies make a ton of money and even though he sold his soul to the Netflix overlords for all the Nazi gold they’re clearly hoarding, he can still do great work in great films – Uncut Gems should be a big awards movie, but it isn’t. Luckily, as it is a Netflix film it can be viewed by you at your earliest convenience in all its glory.
Sandler has had plenty of hits – and misses – over the course of his career. With that in mind, we’ve ranked ‘The Sandman’s five best and five worst performances.
Barry Egan, Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson 2002)
If you’re Mark Kermode, this is a no brainer, easily the best film that Sandler is in by virtue of it being a proper movie. As Barry Egan, Sandler plays down his worst ticks and manages to range some sublime darkly comic moments from that famous Sandler rage. It’s actually a very nuanced performance and shows what he can do when he’s not allowed to write or indeed produce, and is made to be just the actor.
Sonny Koufax, Big Daddy (Dennis Dugan 1999)
Big Daddy is a funny film, there’s no two ways about it. It has big laugh moments in it, peppered with some smaller laughs, and a little heart. That is down to Sandler who gives his all as mantled Sonny who pretends to be his friend so he can take care of a small child and win back his ex-girlfriend. The film does not play out as you would expect and even though it has a melodramatic court case finale, it’s still moving and gives you the belly laughs when you want them.
Howard Ratner, Uncut Gems (The Safdies 2019)
Robbed of an Oscar nomination for his brilliant turn as a gambling addict jewellery dealer, the big teethed Sandler is a shady, panicking mess who outwardly projects some level of cool but inwardly is crapping himself. In too deep and running out of time, Uncut Gems is propulsive and the tragedy of our “hero” is made all the better by Sandler who doesn’t do the yelling thing he became known for and opts for a more nuanced approached.
Michael Newman, Click (Frank Coraci 2006)
Juggling physical comedy, gross-out humour and a surprising amount of heart Click does follow the formula of a Sandler movie but sneaks in a moving performance from him too. As his universal remote begins to skip over things and he is helpless to watch his auto-pilot self push those he loves away, Sandler gives us a portrait of a man on the change. Yes, it’s the Scrooge / It’s a Wonderful Life thing but it’s nigh on impossible not to be moved by the scene with an aged Henry Winkler in the office, and Sandler masterfully pulls off the horror in his reaction.
Henry Roth, 50 First Dates (Peter Segal 2004)
Despite really being known for his man-child routine and his penchant for going crazy and yelling, Sandler can be a romantic leading man. In 50 First Dates he modulates the Sandler-isms for a more calm performance that see him able to get us to buy into the conceit of a man jumping through hoops to re-win the heart of a local girl every day when she forgets. Also, Sandler cry singing to The Beach Boys is very funny.
Nicky, Little Nicky (Steven Brill 2000)
You liked Little Nicky when you were like eight because it had rude jokes but let’s be real, it’s crap. The film isn’t much good, but Sandler is terrible in it. His weird vocal inflections are annoying and he already looks way to old for the role he is playing. It’s unwatchable even by his poor metric.
Jack Sadelstein / Jill Sadelstein, Jack and Jill (Dennis Dugan 2011)
Sandler in drag isn’t funny. Sandler doing big loud dumps in drag isn’t funny. Sandler trying to cop off with a clearly embarrassed Al Pacino in drag isn’t funny. Jack and Jill therefore isn’t funny. His face when playing Jack is one of boredom, and as Jill he appears embarrassed, he knows it’s no good, and it should be forgotten.
Donald “Donny” Berger, That’s My Boy (Sean Anders 2012)
Statutory rape is funny – said no one ever. Yet likeable nice guy Andy Samberg – actually well cast as the son of Sandler – is clearly doing this for the money to make better star vehicles for himself. Sandler produces and plays a man-child who had sex with his teacher aged 12 and she got pregnant, so he raised the kid… there are jokes about incest, it’s pretty homophobic, and Sandler looks like he’s on autopilot. Susan Sarandon should be made to return her Oscar, and James Caan looks like he’s having a stroke. But Sandler is the worst.
Sam Brenner, Pixels (Chris Columbus 2015)
Lazy performance from Sandler as gaming prodigy turned slacker Sam who when the plot of a Futurama episode sees aliens taking the form of 80s video games invade, is called upon by the President (his old pal Kevin James, as his old pal the fat unfunny President) to fight them. Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage are among the others dragged into this mess (Brian Cox, Sean Bean also star), and Sandler’s comedy is mainly pop culture references that make no sense.
Tommy “White Knife” Stockburn, The Ridiculous 6 (Frank Coraci 2015)
Full disclosure I fell asleep during like the third time watching Breaking Bad on Netflix and when I woke up this was on. I watched forty five minutes of it, and concluded that Adam Sandler is actually dead, and someone is doing a Weekend At Bernie’s with his corpse while a so-so Sandler impressionist reads off of large misspelt cue cards.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.