I write plenty here for Flickfeast, and have enjoyed doing so for many years. But I also have (or had . . . . . . time waits for no man) a blog. I’m not mentioning that here in an attempt to steal any readers away, oh no. It’s just worth mentioning that I recently decided to write a piece defending Adam Sandler. He’s become a bit of an easy target lately, due to a run of movies that combined over familiarity with what seemed like pure laziness. But, given the reputation that many of his movies have garnered over the years, I have found myself pleasantly surprised by the likes of Just Go With It, Blended, and even the dumb fun of That’s My Boy. And, as I keep saying, he’ll always get time from me for the simple pleasures in Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Waterboy. Unfortunately, a lot of that goodwill he earned has been worn away by the likes of Eight Crazy Nights, Grown Ups 2, and The Ridiculous 6 (which was his first movie in a major Netflix deal . . . . . this being the second). But it’s worth remembering that, despite his retreat into an easy comfort zone, Sandler has always taken small risks here and there. Whether it’s twisting his onscreen persona in what remains one of his greatest roles, Punch Drunk Love, or just taking a high concept like Click and going with it down a surprisingly dark and twisted path. Even The Cobbler, which is a mess, is interesting in the decisions made by the central characters.
And The Do-Over continues that career pattern. You could say, in many ways, that this is Sandler coasting through Sandler-land. He’s starring alongside David Spade, there’s a small role for Nick Swardson, some women bare their breasts, and the humour is often juvenile (and a bit mean-spirited at times). But this is a bit different from some of his more recent fare.
The core premise, admittedly, sounds like any number of mainstream comedies, and even any number of Sandler flicks. There’s a man (Charlie, played by David Spade) who is unhappy with his lot in life. He’s pretty much in the same place he was in high school. Actually, he’s almost literally in the same place, having never left the house that he grew up in or his first job. And when he meets his old friend, Max (Sandler), at a high school reunion he admits his feelings of discontent. Max, on the other hand, turned his whole life around. He works for the FBI now. He has his own boat. He’s kicking ass and taking names. And that’s why he thinks that helping his old friend might be the best thing for both of them. So he fakes their deaths, laying the foundation for the do-over of the title. But is that really what Charlie wants? And is Max really trying to be helpful, or does he have some other motive?
Admit it. You read the first few sentences of that paragraph and almost clicked yourself away to any other corner of the internet. I don’t blame you. But those last few sentences. That’s where The Do-Over gets interesting. And that’s why I ended up enjoying another Sandler movie. And it’s probably the first time I’ve had to be vague enough while reviewing one of his vehicles, in an attempt to avoid spoilers. Because there are a few nice twists and turns here to add to the viewing experience. They’re not hard to predict, and the biggest surprise the movie has is actually the device that helps propel this along when it starts to jog into thriller territory, but they’re enjoyable enough, and surprisingly well-handled.
The comedy elements are pretty much par for the course. Gags about being able to man up, some crude sex moments, Spade being panicky and whiny at the first sign of trouble, Sandler being a hit with people simply by talking straight to them and reasserting his alpha male status whenever possible, and hilarious injuries. Kathryn Hahn is as good as ever, although it’s a shame that she doesn’t have more screentime, and Paula Patton certainly brightens up the proceedings when she enters the storyline, but the focus remains on Sandler and Spade for most of the movie, which is a lot less painful than it could have been, mainly due to neither of the two leads succumbing to their usual mugging and vocal shenanigans (well, not to excess anyway).
I would actually recommend this to people who can still bring themselves to watch Sandler onscreen. It’s still nowhere near his best stuff, but it’s certainly a few notches above The Ridiculous 6. And you may end up pleasantly surprised.
The Do-Over landed on Netflix on 27th May.
DIRECTOR: STEVEN BRILL
WRITER: KEVIN BARNETT, CHRIS PAPPAS
STARS: ADAM SANDLER, DAVID SPADE, PAULA PATTON, KATHRYN HAHN, NICK SWARDSON
RUNTIME: 108 MINS APPROX