Some will say that attacking an Adam Sandler Netflix comedy is the sign of a weak critic, one devoid of imagination, one shooting fish in a barrel simply because he can. Those people are absolutely right: the majority of his films are so aggressively, incessantly, irrepressibly mediocre, that to write yet another fuming tirade about them would be to admit absolute creative bankruptcy.
Here, therefore, is yet another fuming tirade about one of his comedies.
Sandy Wexler follows the titular Sandy (Adam Sandler), a mendacious Hollywood manager, as he seeks to cultivate the talent of Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson), a singer that he discovers working in a nearby theme park. The plot proceeds as though it were locked into the twin tracks of cliché and trope, never deviating from the beats of romance thwarted and triumphant love that one would expect in a low-rent rom-com.
Sandy is one of the most infuriating characters ever put to screen, consistently irritating, unlikeable, and ineffectual, his every second onscreen nigh-on unwatchable. For the role, Sandler has adopted a shuffling gait, a softly-spoken, slightly-lisping voice and a laugh like that of an asthmatic seal. Every word he speaks and every gesture he makes seem to be performed with the sole intention of eliciting maximum annoyance from the audience.
Even beyond his grating externalities, it is impossible to support Sandy: he lies chronically without convincing a single person, launches into fits of rage without warning, and he fails every one of his clients repeatedly. It might work if he was deplorable but efficient; it might work if he was honest but hapless; it might even work if he was both contemptible and ineffective but was then punished for being so. But Sandy gets the girl, leads a terrific career, and enjoys long-term happiness despite the dishonesty and ineptitude which characterises him throughout the film’s 130-minute runtime.
And yes, the film runs for 130 minutes.
The film fundamentally cannot sustain such a gargantuan length. The narrative through-line is a simple, stock story, one that could be whipped through in half-an-hour by a better film. The film is only so long because it is entirely ignorant of how to pace its exchanges, scenes, and sequences. There is not a single moment which feels like it is the right length—every single one is extended to breaking point, and then stretched out for another few minutes, just for good measure.
In one scene, a character repeatedly forgets to record Courtney’s demo track, leading to an outraged outburst from Sandy. This sequence—which runs for several minutes—does not contain a single actual joke and yet keeps on going, and going, and going, refusing to stop and refusing to do anything interesting, and refusing to show the slightest regard for anyone watching it. A film does not need perpetual forward momentum to succeed. But, if you are going to take a slower approach, every moment needs to justify itself, needs to prove its worth by being funny, or amusing, or affecting, or something other than mind-numbingly inert.
In fact, the only moment in which Sandy Wexler manages to reach the heady heights of reduced disinterest are in its infrequent forays into dark humour. Yet these gags reveal yet another of its failures: the film is entirely unaware of why it exists. If Sandy Wexler simply knew what it was—even if that meant being a dime-a-dozen love story—it would be less offensive than the noxious trash fire currently streaming on Netflix.
So yes, perhaps it is too easy to lay into an Adam Sandler comedy. But then Sandy Wexler never seems to put in any effort either, so why should I? When a film has so little concern about its own quality, so little regard for doing anything of interest, so much contempt for its audience’s time, how can one respond to it in any other way?