Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ever Since Adam

Here's a piece in the Hollywood Reporter by John DeFore about how after Pixels Adam Sandler is finished.  Okay, it's been pretty clear his charmed career is in trouble.  But right off the bat we get this:

Adam Sandler's name on a film was never a guarantee of yuks or bucks, but once upon a time [...] it inspired more hope than dread.

I don't remember a time when Sandler's name on a movie inspired hope, but that's about taste.  On the other hand, how can a writer in one of the top show biz periodicals claim the Sandler name wasn't a guarantee of bucks?  For over a decade he was the most consistent earner of any comedy star, perhaps of any movie star.  He would occasionally try something different, and those films generally weren't big, but as long as he made an "Adam Sandler" film--which he not only starred in, but often wrote or produced--it was the surest bet in Hollywood.

Let's review his career.  After a couple of misfires, he established himself in the mid-90s with a couple of low-budget minor hits, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.  Then, in 1998, he had a solid hit, The Wedding Singer, which grossed $80 million (all figures domestic).  From this point on, he was unstoppable.

His next two films, The Waterboy and Big Daddy, in 1998 and 1999, were huge, both grossing over $160 million.  And while his budgets were inching up, they were still relatively low. However, his next film was a rare misfire, Little Nicky.  It grossed just under $40 million, while it was Sandler's first truly big budget, at over $80 million.

He quickly regained his footing, though, and from 2002 to 2011, every single "Adam Sandler" film made over $100 million: Mr. Deeds, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, You Don't Mess With The Zohan, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups and Just Go With It.  They had to gross a lot, because Sandler, being a sure thing, demanded a lot of money, and his budgets were now averaging around $80 million.

Meanwhile, every now and then he tried to stretch, and in every case the audience rejected the attempt. Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Reign Over Me--none of them made even half of what an "Adam Sandler" film made.  Even when he teamed up with hot comedy director Judd Apatow and co-starred with Seth Rogen in Funny People the result was a financial fizzle.

But that was okay. It was the "Adam Sandler" films that paid the bills.  In recent years, though, even they've proved to be iffy propositions.  Jack And Jill in 2011 made $74 million.  That's My Boy in 2012 made half as much.  For big-budget comedies, these numbers aren't acceptable.  He had a bit of a comeback in 2013 with Grown Ups 2, but that was a sequel, pre-sold, and was a distinct fall-off from the first Grown Ups.

Last year he reteamed with Drew Barrymore in Blended. Their previous two films, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, were hits, but this one grossed only $46 million.  It's worth noting, however, that the budget was only $40 million, half of a normal Sandler budget. Clearly Hollywood had caught on, and wasn't going to pay as much for his tarnished brand.

Pixels probably sounded like a good idea, but apparently (based on the critics--I haven't seen it) it doesn't deliver, and looks like it'll be another disappointment.  So perhaps his career has turned a corner.  Pretty much every film comedian eventually runs out of steam as the audience gets tired of his antics and moves on to the latest thing.  But even if Sandler never has another hit, he's had one of the biggest careers of any clown ever.

PS  Speaking of entertainment writers with bad math skills, look at Pete Hammond on the BBC list of top American films:

In a comprehensive new poll of the 100 Greatest American Films of all time, released this week by BBC Culture, only a measly 12 Academy Award winning Best Pictures turn up at all, and only 8 of them in the top 75.

Is he kidding?  12 out of 100 is 8%, a whopping huge number.  The ratio of all American films (not even including unknown indies) to Best Picture winners is what--a 100 to 1, a 1000 to 1?  And yet they managed to take one out of eight slots available.  And quite a few others on the list were nominated for Best Picture, or won an Academy Award in a different category.  Also, a few of the films on the list, like Birth Of A Nation and The Gold Rush, were released before the Oscars were given out, and might have won the top award if given a chance.

If I heard 12 out of the top 100 of an all-time list won the Best Picture Oscar, my first reaction would be what a rotten list that so ridiculously favors Hollywood favorites.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many best picture awards have there been? 80 or so?

Forget quality for minute and just look at math/probability. 12 out of 80 made the top 100 American films ever (which is a very very small percentage of American movies ever made and released commercially). Assume Best Picture is what it says- the Best Picture made in a given year. So the best picture in any year is a very small percentage of all the American films released that year (but not so small at the top 100 bears to all the movies made I think).

Given the variability in "Best's" among years- i.e. the top 10 (or more) pictures in a given year might all be better than the best picture in another given year, what is the likelihood that only 15% of "Best Pictures" make the top 100 (maybe the variability between years makes that impossible to calculate).

However on a math/probability basis, I think (OK guess)that 12 is low and shows, as LA guy suggests, that critics have a very different standard than the Academy (i.e. the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)

7:07 AM, July 28, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry- I hijacked an Adam Sandler post so let me atone. He seems like a present day version of Jerry Lewis with the annoying voices and all (although I'm surprised that That's My Boy- the one Jerry Lewis film I actually liked-didn't do better for Adam- of course I didn't bother to see it so maybe that's the answer) and it gets grating after a while to his base fans and impenetrable to younger ones. Maybe Adam needs to show his acting chops by remaking Jerry Lewis' Auschwitz movie?

9:31 AM, July 28, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

As I'm sure you know, the Jerry Lewis That's My Boy has nothing to do with the Adam Sandler That's My Boy. (The Lewis film is a lot closer to The Waterboy, actually.)

When I noted Sandler had a run like few other comedians, the first guy I thought of was Lewis. Their characters are different, but both play cases of arrested development, which can be hard to maintain into your forties. Sandler's run of hits lasted about fifteen years, and so did Lewis's (he was a top star from around 1950 to 1965--then things started to go bad and he was essentially done by 1970).

The other comic I thought of was another antic character, Danny Kaye, who starred in hits from around the mid-1940s to the late 50s. Then there was Bob Hope, a reliable hitmaker from around 1940 to the mid-50s. It's hard to stay on top for much longer.

10:09 AM, July 28, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I know why I didn't see Adam's That's My Boy. Waterboy I did see one rainy afternoon and had you not informed me it was one of his successful comedies (in terms of sales), I would have assumed it was evidence of his decline. So what do I know.

I did kind of like the Grown Ups because it felt like he was playing himself at his own age, not those cloying Lewis-like kid voices (which everyone else apparently adores)

1:11 PM, July 28, 2015  

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