I have a distinct memory of the first time I found out who Adam Sandler was. I was sitting in a muggy, wood cabin at Herzl Camp in the middle of the Wisconsin wilderness with 10 other same-aged Jewish white children. One kid had a CD player hooked up to speakers and they were blaring an album called “They’re All Gonna Laugh At You.” This album had come out in 1993, which at this time must have been a good 3-4 years prior, but it didn’t matter. The comedy that was coming through those speakers was absolutely perfect for a 10 year old boy at summer camp.
I, like most guys my age, have grown up with the Sand-man. Shortly after hearing his comedy album, I saw his breakout movies, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. After that, Sandler movies became appointment viewing for most sleepovers and lazy Friday nights. Sandler’s movies at the time (and arguably now) imitated me. They were dumb, funny, and they were crass for the sake of being crass. They included scenes where Bob Barker was getting punched in the face for Christ’s sake!
I’ve grown up (again, arguable to the actual extent) since my days at Herzl. My fandom for Adam Sandler has become strictly nostalgic. The last Sandler “comedy” I saw in theaters was I Know Pronounce You Chuck and Larry back in 2007. Going through his IMDB page, I haven’t even seen his last 6 movies, theater or otherwise. And that’s okay. I’m not his target audience anymore.
And that’s precisely why I’m writing this blog.
It’s that time of the year when a Sandler movie comes out (this time it’s That’s My Boy) to the heckles of every critic from here to Timbuktu. Movie critics, especially young ones, get very worked up about the quality of Adam Sandler comedies. They call them half-assed. They call them crass. They call them low-brow. They can’t fathom how a man who has been making movies for over two-decades could not possibly grow as an entertainer.
I commend Sandler for not growing. He doesn’t need too. I don’t know Sandler personally, but judging from the movies he makes, he likes acting like a kid. Who doesn’t? He makes $20 million dollars a flick to essentially tickle the funny bone of every 12 year old boy in the world. And he does. His movies since 2001 have grossed over $1 billion collectively at the US box office.
The problem is not with Sandler. It’s with people like me. Twenty to thirty something’s who look back on Sandler movies of old and wonder why he can’t continue doing what he used to do. But he is. And he will continue to. No strictly “comedic” movie Sandler has ever done (with the exception of The Wedding Singer) is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The same movies that I thought were genius in 1997 as a 10 year old were collectively hated by everyone at that time who was the same age I am now.
Sandler is the pied piper of preteen boys (and I know that sounds weird). And I’m happy he is. As much as I want Sandler to make a movie I will like, I know that he can’t and won’t. I’m glad that kids still get a kick out of him. I just wish the kids who have grown up wouldn’t give him so much grief.