Monday Morning Critic – Adam Sandler, Pixels And The Seeming Invulnerability Of Comedy’s Clown Prince

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Twenty years is a long time to be on top of anything, much less an entertainment media, and yet Adam Sandler has been able to have a functioning, A-list caliber career as a comedian since Bill Clinton was running for his second term as President of the United States. It’s kind of crazy to think that two entire generations of 13 year olds have come and gone since the time Adam Sandler went from “funny guy on Saturday Night Live to the one comedian who’s managed to endure the longest from the 1990s. When Sandler started his ascent to the top many thought we’d be in the middle of the Josh Hartnett & Colin Farrell era of leading men … life is kind of funny that way.

For a lot of people he’s still someone you point out got his big break as Theo Huxtable’s friend on The Cosby Show for those who remember the days when Bill Cosby was merely a family friendly comedian and not just a rapist.

The fact that Sandler is able to get a film like Pixels made, which opened to the usual horrid reviews and even worse word of mouth, is still fairly impressive these days. His ability to have multiple films a year come out in theaters is most likely over, mainly because his Netflix deal is most likely going to take one of those slots per year. But once again he’s released a film with a fairly lackluster opening weekend domestically with poor reviews, as Sandler’s latest is close enough to that $100 million mark in budget along that he’ll need significant help from foreign box office revenues to put the film into profitability.

And somehow he’ll wind up with a film in the black when all is said and done.

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Betting against him being able to still make a profitable film, even with the usual awful reviews and a weaker than normal box office, Sandler is still a favorite to get this film into the black somehow. I mean not using Hollywood accounting, of course, because apparently Return of the Jedi somehow never made anyone any money ever. I’ve always found it amusing that no Republican presidential candidate has ever put the notion of going after Hollywood, which usually isn’t fan friendly to the GOP, by forcing them to use more acceptable accounting methods than the craziness by which they use financial semantics to keep as much money out of actors’ hands as possible.

But the big thing about Pixels and Sandler, especially in light of the controversy that still surrounds his first Netflix film Ridiculous Six, is that we’re seeing just how durable Sandler still is as both a box office draw as well as a comedy star. As much as $24 million for what’s apparently the worst film of the year can be seen as an indictment of people’s tastes, let’s take a look at what Sandler is competing with right now:

Jurassic World – After this weekend it’s officially become the third biggest film of all time, internationally, and the fourth biggest domestically. The only films bigger than it are the Avengers, Avatar and Titanic. Fairly lofty company … especially for the fourth film in a franchise that peaked with its first film and has kind of been “hey, dinosaurs!” for pretty much every sequel. People are still coming to see the film, even if the numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as they were a month ago.

Inside Out – Pixar’s third biggest film of all time, the biggest opening for a film to not hit #1 and a direct competitor for the same family market Sandler is targeting.

Ant-Man – Marvel is so insanely hot right now that Paul Rudd battling a character actor from a basic cable television show can warrant $130 million in budget alone. Despite the fact that the film is more popular overseas than it is here it’s still taking a huge portion of the same coveted age groups away from Sandler.

Minions – A spin off of another insanely popular family friendly franchise. For parents who would prefer a Pixar alternative, this is your choice.

Sandler-and-Barrymore

So while $24 million may be one of the worst Sandler openings of all time for a PG-13 film with a wide release … the fact that Pixels still wound up near the top of the box office game with so much competition for the family friendly market is kind of remarkable. Throw in the usual tidal wave of “THIS FILM IS STUPID” and “ANYONE WHO BUYS A TICKET TO THIS FILM SHOULD BE BANNED FROM MOVIES” that accompanies nearly every Sandler film and this film broke $20 million easily. With such strong backlash to it to begin with, the fact that this film broke $10 million is something … the fact that it broke $20 million in a market and atmosphere that lends itself to destroying the box office grosses of turds like this is all the more remarkable.

Going into it the fact that Sandler was attached to the film was going to lend itself to bad reviews; Sandler getting positive reviews is like someone giving Michael Bay a positive word. For as much as they get torched for their cinema for being a kind of Typhoid Mary of American Cinema, and most times rightfully so, film aficionados and critics alike pile on negative superlatives to them the same way they do in the reverse for others. It’s not OK to just say a Sandler film is bad; it’s a competition to see who can torch it in the most creative way possible.

No one wants to be the guy that disliked War Horse in the same no way wants to be the guy who adored Jack and Jill. Both films were equally awful, but one had a director of note and the other had Adam Sandler.

The fact that Sandler can still crack $20 million domestic on an opening weekend for a film that’s going to torched no matter how good it is merely for having Sandler in the cast is remarkable. While Sandler may be stepping back some in the next couple years, dropping films to Netflix directly that otherwise could’ve found their way into a theatre, so far he’s proving himself to be one of the few comedic actors who has weathered the test of time. If you’d have told me that the last 20 years have featured the guy who played Opera Man as one of the biggest stars I’d have called you crazy.

And when Sandler does massive viewership on Netflix, we’ll all be equally baffled, too.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

I reviewed Virtuosity, which is amusing from a historical standpoint.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Vacation – Ed Helms replaces Anthony Michael Hall as a grown up Rusty Griswold, recreating his father’s famous cross country trip to Wally World.

Skip it – The original is not all that funny and hasn’t aged well. Yet it still manages to be funnier than any moment of this film’s trailer.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Ethan Hunt is back, doing wild crazy things against the evil counterpart of the IMF.

See it – Cruise is usually at his best as the secret agent, it seems, and since Obama has been reelected Cruise has been just crushing it with action films.

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

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