In a year that brought us the first half of a new sexual-abstinence PSA masking as a Twilight film, four new Nicolas Cage movies with titles like Season of the Witch and Drive Angry, as well as a motion picture called Midgets vs. Mascots (in which 5 midgets and 5 mascots vie in a Jackass-like stunt competition for the million dollar inheritance of a deceased vertically challenged porn star), one cinematic atrocity rose far above the rest. Released in late November, Jack and Jill (starring Adam Sandler as Jack and Adam Sandler as Jill) earned “wins” in all 10 categories of last week’s Golden Raspberry Awards (Razzies), the annual award ceremony that honors the worst of what Hollywood has produced over the past 12 months. Traditionally held on the eve of the Academy Awards, the Razzies have never had a single film sweep all ten of its categories. Yet this year, led by the cross-dressing Sandler, Jack and Jill swept the board, making the third Transformers movie look like the third Lord of the Rings. This year’s Worst Actor nod was Sandler’s seventh such nomination his over twenty year long career.
Now Jack and Jill was really quite unfortunate; the kind of movie that makes you question whether your being born had been the best outcome. And while being forced to watch two Adam Sandlers simultaneously fart for two straight hours could seamlessly substitute for capital punishment, the film did not deserve all the Razzie Awards. The film garnered all ten victories, partly as a publicity stunt by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation (Adam Sandler sweeping 10 “Worst Awards” makes for an alluring headline), but mostly because critics abhor the choice Sandler has made as to the direction of his career.
The critics are jaded because throughout his career, Sandler has largely used his immense box-office drawing prowess to makes a lot of bad movies (*Movies that critics widely regard as being “bad.” Personally I think Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and Eight Crazy Nights are top-notch lowbrow films). Sandler now has a Worst Actor Razzie nomination for every day of the week while having the same number of Oscar nominations as you and me. Even Eddie Murphy thinks some of the scripts Sandler chooses are ridiculous. Furthering the indignation of critics is that Sandler seems to understand that the movies he cooks up and serves to us are utter crap.
In Funny People, the ho-hum Judd Apatow film with a deceptive title, Sandler openly parodies his track record of starring in awfully awful movies by playing comedian-actor George Simmons whose filmography includes such blockbuster gems as My Best Friend is a Robot and Mer-man. This self-aware mockery proves Sandler is conscious to the fact that the similarly boorish Little Nicky or The Waterboy are about as tasteful as going blackface to a Civil Rights march. Yet despite this recognition, Sandler keeps making movies that feature farting in fat suits, offensive accents and Rob Schneider cameos. And it is this fact: that Sandler willfully knows his work is serving the lowest conceivable denominator that incites so much ire from the Hollywood critics to the tune of 10 Razzie Awards in a single year.
Sandler further enrages the motion picture establishment by occasionally throwing in a quality thespian performance. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role in 2002’s Punch Drunk Love, and has played it straight in dramas like Reign Over Me and Spanglish. Even Funny People showed that a proper Sandler could conjure up some genuine pathos when he chooses to play a character who speaks like an ordinary guy and not a mentally handicapped transvestite from Moldova.
Yet while 10 Razzies in a single year is a significant figure, here’s an even more telling statistic. Jack and Jill, the same Jack and Jill with a Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating of three percent, took in over $74 million in US box office sales. $74 million is $30.5 million more than this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture The Artist took in domestically. That’s right, the world’s lone superpower, the United States, a nation millions from across the globe look to as a source of leadership and inspiration, saw its citizens spend $30 million more to see the worst movie of the year than to see the year’s supposed best movie. I fear for the rest of the world.
But should Sandler be blamed for manufacturing junk if we as moviegoers keep eating it up in spoonfuls? Sandler is currently one of Hollywood’s most reliable actors in terms of bringing in an audience. Taking a chance on an independent dramatic passion project might improve his chances of giving an acceptance speech, but it also has a good chance of diminishing his reputation as a surefire box-office dynamo. If I were Sandler, I’d like to think I would have sought out more films along the way that could have brought me a golden statue, perhaps a corky Charlie Kaufman-written script with a zany love-interest filling the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” role (think Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Zooey Deschanel in everything she’s ever done). Yet I’m not considering dollars and cents in this hypothetical situation. And therein lies the rub. Critically-acclaimed motion pictures co-starring the Stanley Tucci are a third as profitable as the critically-denounced movie co-starring Kevin James. Of course most would like to make something the critics respect, but who wouldn’t love to make something that earns $70 million versus $30 million? There’s getting paid, and then there’s getting Paid. The Wu-Tang Clan spoke truths. Cash rules everything. Dolla, dolla bills y’all. Where is the incentive for Sandler to jeopardize his status as an unrelenting cash cow for the studios, if the American public will continue to drop $114 million on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry? To borrow yet another hip saying the kids are using these days, the hatred towards Adam Sandler is a classic case of mainstream movie critics hating the player and not the game.