Monday Morning Critic – Russell Crowe, Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the downsides of the winter is that for all the prestige films about to come out, with it the expectation of the best films of the year coming out, is that counter-programming to all this tends to stray towards the ridiculous and the awful. Case in point this week: Jack and Jill.

You know, I have a place in my heart for Adam Sandler. I really do. At one point the guy was remarkably funny and everything he did made the teenaged me laugh. But the problem is that I grew up and Sandler’s comedy styling never really did; occasionally there’s a film like Zohan that I enjoy for its ludicrous nature but for the most part there’s nothing about Sandler that screams that I have to go and see his films on a regular basis. Like most people, I view him like this. I grew up but Adam Sandler’s films never have. And at this point I can see why he continues to make these kinds of films.

It’s profitable and pays him well.

If Sandler wanted critical accolades he’d have walked away from these comedies as soon as he made enough money so that he’d never be able to spend it all in his lifetime again. Considering Sandler has never been a tabloid star, or had a known drug problem, his choice of films is more of a choice to not want to stray from what he does well: low-brow comedy aimed at the tween types. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Why? He doesn’t have to.

Something Eddie Murphy said to “Rolling Stone” recently I think might apply to Sandler as well. Murphy was discussing why he doesn’t consider anything as a challenge in the back half of his career.

“I’m never gonna go, ‘I want to do this role because it’s a challenge. I might not be able to pull it off, that’s why I’m excited about doing it.’ For someone to sit on the outside, talking about, ‘They need to push themselves,’ it’s so ridiculous. Push myself? I’ve had a whole fucking career already, these are the gravy years. I have more than distinguished myself in the movie business.”

I think we can apply this to Sandler at this point in his career. Every 2-3 years he does a film that aspires to be more because of who’s attached; Funny People reunited him with his old roommate Judd Apatow, Spanglish let him work with James L Brooks and Punch Drunk Love with Paul Thomas Anderson. One imagines that working with a guy like Anderson is something new and different is more fun than it is technically a challenge.

With a handful of regular directors he works with as part of his Happy Madison crew, one imagines that occasionally he just likes to take a walk on the wild side and do something different. And really at this point it’s something he doesn’t have to do; he can make a handful of Jack and Jill type films, make a ton of cash and know that his place in cinema history is fairly secure.

If he winds up at 50, changing into doing drama and indie work more and letting other, younger actors take parts underneath the Happy Madison shingle he would’ve 10-15 years ago, that could happen to. I can see Sandler using this every 2-3 years window to get in valuable drama reps, like how Kobe Bryant slowly developed his game over the years to the point where now that his athletic peak is winding down, his skill set is still strong enough to compensate for it. One imagines that maybe Sandler is crafty like that.

Maybe when all is said and done, and Sandler is too old to be playing the Adam Sandler role in his films anymore, he’ll cast other actors to play that role and work on different projects. And he won’t miss a beat, either, because over the years he’ll have banked enough parts with enough different directors that he can go awards chasing as opposed to box office chasing. I don’t know, but if Adam Sandler develops a Bill Murray level resume of dramatic films when all is said and done then maybe Jack and Jill will have served a purpose.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Next Three Days

A while back one of the guys I read on a regular basis, Christian Toto, posited a question: Do Audiences Hate Russell Crowe? I chimed in, as did plenty, considering he hasn’t had a massive box office hit, or an Oscar nomination in a while, it’s a good question to poise.

Do audiences hate Russell Crowe?

I don’t know. My thoughts then, and still are now, is that when you do R-rated dramas meant for an adult audience as counter-programming you shouldn’t be expected to draw in the same crowds that Will Smith does for saving the world from something. If we used the Movie Moneyball Technique he’s well out of the Will Smith/Leonardo DiCaprio era of being a draw, et al, but there’s something powerful about Crowe that makes him such an intriguing actor. For all the personal shenanigans of his personal life, one imagines that if this was many years ago, like the L.A Times posited, many of his personal shenanigans would be overlooked.

Now we live in the era where anytime someone famous screws up its instantly available to everyone. And it can sometimes become more prevalent than their films. The film in question that Christian posits many moons ago? The Next Three Days.

The Next Three Days is a remake of the French film Pour Elle, which translates to Anything for Her, has a strong cast and crew behind it. College professor John Brennan (Crowe) has a charmed life: he has a beautiful wife (Elizabeth Banks) who is successful at her job and a young son. When she’s accused of murder, and eventually convicted of it, John decides to try and fight the system and win her freedom. When hiring a lawyer does not work and a suicide attempt leaves her in a bad place, John decides to break her out of prison.

Formulating a plan to break her out, the college professor finds his way in an unsavory world trying to assemble the connections and materials needed to get her. When she’s about to be transferred far away, he has three days to pull it off, hence the film’s title. The film had a rancid opening considering the pedigree behind it (under $10 million) and didn’t draw well, finishing with less than $70 million worldwide off a budget of less than half that. Given a studio’s roughly 60% cut of grosses, which are still profitability but not quite a big one. And it’s a shame because it’s actually a pretty good film.

The film doesn’t just focus on the three days leading up to John’s crazy plan to throw it all away and break his wife out of prison. It focuses on why he would and the time beforehand, and how her imprisonment affects everyone’s lives. John is now a single father, convinced of his wife’s innocence beyond a doubt when there’s plenty of reasonable doubt that she did it. The film wisely doesn’t establish her innocence or guilt early on; we don’t know. It makes John’s task more of a mission of love than him trying to free an innocent woman (or free a killer, conversely). Everything around him says to move on; his lawyer openly tries to prod John into admitting the evidence says she did it and the pretty single mother (Olivia Wilde) he strikes up a friendship with seems to point him in the direction of movie on. But he can’t because he loves her that much and believes in her case.

There are lots of great touches, too. In the beginning Banks has blonde hair and after we see her in jail for three years it’s gone to brown; it’s a nice touch, acknowledging that she’s dyed it and obviously can’t now in the joint, and kind of stands out for a good reason. It also gives her character a nice touch; we can’t associate her with the pre-jail character because now she’s not hardened by prison but changed.

Recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

J. Edgar – Clint Eastwood does a biopic of former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead.

See It – This has Oscar bait all over it and I’m curious to see how Eastwood handles the whole “was J. Edgar gay” debacle.

Immortals – Tarsem Singh does his own 300.

Skip It – I like Singh but this looks like another 10,000 B.C. I just can’t shake the feeling that this is going to be stylized crap.

Jack and Jill – Adam Sandler is a rich guy in Los Angeles who needs to learn a lesson from his twin sister (Sandler in drag).

Skip It – The leader for “worst film of 2011″ and an early contender for worst film of the decade.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (Tropa De Elite 2) – Brazil’s toughest cop gets promoted and discovers that criminals aren’t just on the streets.

See it – It’s Brazil’s biggest film ever; last time I saw a film merely for being a country’s biggest film it turned out to be Night Watch. Plus it was submitted by Brazil as its entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar, which is either insane or a clue that perhaps Brazil has as good taste in film as it does in women.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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