Monday, April 17, 2017

Movie Review: "Sandy Wexler" (2017)

Director: Steven Brill
Year: 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Hollywood manager Sandy Wexler talks a big game, but usually works with small time talent. One day at an amusement park, he discovers a singer he believes has what it takes to make it big, as long as she has the right manager: himself.

"Sandy Wexler" is the third film in Adam Sandler's multi-picture deal with Netflix. It is directed by Steve Brill, who directed Sandler's previous Netflix venture, "The Do-Over," as well as his earlier films "Little Nicky" and "Mr. Deeds." Sandler plays Sandy Wexler, a small time Hollywood agent who handles lesser known and far less talented clientele that have a variety of different jobs, like a would-be actress, a trapeze stuntman, and a horrible ventriloquist. All of this changes when he discovers a singer named Courtney Clarke, played by Jennifer Hudson, who is working at an amusement park as a singing duck in a frequently running children's show. He quickly signs her as a client and does what he can so she can make it big. Joining Hudson and Sandler are the usual suspects from other Happy Madison productions, including but not limited to Kevin James, Rob Schneider, Nick Swardson, and Terry Crews. Many of the not so usual suspects make cameos as well, and there are really far too many to list in full, but for a brief sampling: Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, singer Aaron Neville, Judd Apatow, Jane Seymour, and Jewel.

We've said it before and we'll say it again. Adam Sandler must be one of the nicest and most loyal actors in Hollywood. He manages to get an absurd amount of people to appear in his movies, and it's not just his slew of regulars. Sure, he keeps many of his longtime friends, who wouldn't have careers without him, gainfully employed, but he clearly has the respect of some big names in the business for them to keep agreeing to appear in his flicks.

As for this particular film, it is another step away from the absolute atrocity that was "The Ridiculous 6," which is a fantastic start. This is a story about characters and relationships. It has moments of situational humor and a few gags that actually work within the context of the film. We managed to find ourselves laughing a couple times here and there, though there are still plenty of jokes that absolutely fall flat and miss their intended marks. "Sandy Wexler" really won't be for anybody who was born after 1985. Most of what takes place happens in the 90's, and a large portion of the jokes consist of the 'member berry' type of humor. If you hate it when comedies use a bunch of pop culture references as the main source of a movie's humor, this is definitely not intended for you. If you remember people like Lisa Loeb and Arsenio Hall fondly, tune in because it only gets more 90's from there. Almost everything that happens here is used as a cultural marker to things that were popular in the decade that made Vanilla Ice a thing.

BigJ and I definitely feel like Sandler is attempting absolving himself of a lot of the crap he has helped produce and helped bring to fruition over the past decade and a half. Though he claims this movie is based on his experiences with his own manager Sandy Wernick, many of the plot points (and fingers) can point directly back at Sandler and the ridiculous projects he has taken part in as of late, whether behind the scenes as a producer or writer, or in front of the camera as an actor. "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," the atrocious "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" and the downright insufferable "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" and "Eight Crazy Nights" are just a few examples. Sandler seems so preoccupied with keeping his friends and former colleagues happy, he doesn't have the heart to tell them that what they are making is (almost always) absolute excrement. This describes the character of Sandy Wexler to the tee.

The biggest downfall of "Sandy Wexler" is the use of one of Sandler's three signature silly voices. We're not quite sure what drove him to use this tone of voice when it really didn't need to be used, and it adds nothing to the film whatsoever. It becomes grating about 3 minutes into it, and this is not a short movie. On that note, it is entirely too long and is not well paced. A good 30-40 minutes could be cut out of this film have been shaved from its run time.

It feels like Adam Sandler is striving to improve his work, but it's hard to say if he will ever have a genuine return to form that skyrocketed his career in the 90's. "Sandy Wexler" is a step in the right direction, but it's still far too unfunny and far too "bad Adam Sandler" to illicit a necessary viewing.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~36%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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