With new film Murder Mystery already a hit, Adam Sandler's on a hot streak he hasn't enjoyed in almost two decades. Karl Puschmann wonders if it can last.
Is Adam Sandler back, baby? Could the Sandman, like Matthew McConaughey before him, be ushering in a new age of critical re-evaluation that we'll soon be calling the Sanconaissance? Am I, perhaps, getting a little too carried away?
These were all questions I ruminated on as I watched his new movie Murder Mystery on Netflix. It was the third Sandler offering in a row I'd enjoyed. A hot streak of the likes Sandler hasn't enjoyed in almost two decades.
I think we can all agree that Sandler's golden age was a long time ago. He hit his pinnacle in 1998 when he delivered the knockout one-two punch of The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer.
These solidified his reputation as a funny guy who put out funny movies. A reputation he quickly dumped on by putting out dross like Little Nicky and Big Daddy and demonstrating an inexplicable commitment to releasing Rob Schneider movies.
Who knows what he was thinking with cinematic turkeys like That's My Boy and Jack and Jill. But he kept his stock up with a steady stream of crowdpleasing rom-coms like 50 First Dates, family comedies like Grown Ups and Blended, and the occasional "serious" turn in critically acclaimed films like Punch Drunk Love and Funny People.
Not that he needed to. The dude's a box office phenomenon whose combined movies have grossed over $2 billion. It's hard to imagine duds like You Don't Mess with the Zohan making more than $2, but that disaster made just shy of $110 million in profit. Unbelievable.
But back in 2014, Sandler left the cinema behind in favour of the small screen, signing an insanely lucrative four-picture deal with Netflix. Since then he's been cranking films out to a more than receptive home audience. His stuff's been so popular Netflix signed him up again in 2017 to make four more.
While he hasn't yet stooped to Jack and Jill levels, his Netflix filmography is as mixed as it was at the cinema. You can divide his output into three categories: appalling junk that plays to his juvenile tendencies (The Ridiculous 6), ones he coasts through with his comedy pals (The Week Of) and the odd surprise where he delivers a properly good performance in a properly good movie (The Meyerowitz Stories).
Undoubtedly his biggest shock was 100% Fresh, a comedy special he put out late last year. Four words that should have you running for the exit are "Adam Sandler Comedy Special", but 100% Fresh is genuinely hilarious. Adam Sandler could still be funny. Who knew?
Which brings us to his new one, Murder Mystery. You don't have to be Detective Clouseau to work out what the film is about. It reteams Sandler with the capable comedy chops of Jennifer Aniston (the pair made Just Go With It in 2011) and lets them bumble their way through an Agatha Christie type mystery in the sunny Mediterranean.
Sandler puts in a little more effort than usual, even just doing his familiar "schlub husband" routine, and he generally lets Aniston steal the show as his mystery-obsessed wife. Her enthusiasm for getting to the bottom of the mystery as people around her drop like flies has some pretty funny moments.
For a while the film's murder mystery has you playing armchair detective, teasing your brain with the possibilities and tickling it with the odd quip or gag. It's never hugely LOL but there's just enough happening to keep you watching. But as it goes on, things gets increasingly farcical - not the good kind, sadly - before building to its preposterous conclusion.
Still, it was a breezy and untaxing watch that caught a few chuckles. After a long day at the office that's about all I wanted. It was okay and mildly entertaining. Not particularly good, but not horribly bad either.
Not that it matters. Murder Mystery is already a hit, smashing Netflix records by streaming to nearly 31 million accounts worldwide last weekend. There's even talk of a sequel.
The real mystery posed by the movie is whether the Sandman's going to at least try to keep his hot streak running or if he will repeat what he did 20 years ago and sleepwalk towards another cinematic slump.