News flash: Adam Sandler’s new movie reveals something dire lurking under Hollywood  

I want to admit something to you – I don’t enjoy Jimmy Fallon. It always seems that he is having a much better time than his audience. That is not to say that I don’t think he is a talented guy or that I disagree with the idea that performers should have fun, but gradually it becomes apparent that his fun is at our expense. He cavorts, introduces inside jokes, winks, and generally plays out personal interactions based on what is amusing to him (rather than what might be amusing to an audience). Worst of all... God help us, he just can’t stop smirking. It’s like he’s secretly watching a loop of Moe poking Curly in the liver over and over inside his cerebellum. It’s distracting and makes him seem disingenuous. 

This is also the reason I dislike the set of Adam Sandler movies. The majority of his films, particularly some of his most recent offerings, appear to be an excuse to get his buddies together, like some kind of extremely well-funded camp reunion, with the film as by-product. Their antics are then edited into an embarrassing reel of sad sack races and volleyballs-in-the-nuts bloopers – “Ow, my groin” – hilarious every time.

Granted, I have not seen “Blended”, the newest installment of the "Happy Madison" film dynasty. From the advertisements, it seems to be a regurgitated “Parent Trap” all glossy and new for the ‘90s (note that today it is 2014).

The reviews for Sandler’s newer films like “Grown Ups”, “Grown Ups 2”, and “Jack and Jill” (Adam Sandler AND Adam Sandler in drag? Finally!) have been, on the whole, abominable. Disturbingly, however, these movies still manage to make scads of money. Kristen Acuna from Business Insider notes that Adam Sandler has been critic proof:  “After more than 19 Razzie nominations and five wins, his movies have amassed more than $3.7 billion worldwide.” And you can check her article for specifics on box office takes for some of the critically worst received of those films. Yes, “Click” and its “stuffed-animal-molesting dog gag” (always a classic) made $237 million worldwide.

What is it that makes this possible? What is it that we who love great movies don’t get about this heavy-lidded, childish-grinning, frat-hatted, superstar? Is he a fan favorite - our generation’s Jerry Lewis without the telethon?

I think I have honed in on the real reason Adam Sandler’s lesser films make money, and strangely, it has something to do with the physical terrain of Hollywood – the rock formations under the city –maybe it’s all that oil they’ve dredged out of there or something to do with tectonic plates. If you pay close attention you can watch it happening… the Hills are settling. It reminds me of a scene from the middling movie “Erik the Viking” where folks on an island refuse to believe that the ground underneath them is slipping into the sea even as they drown.

The fact is the industry doesn’t produce as many quality films as it used to, because it appears it doesn’t have to. If the names Sandler and Barrymore will assure box office wins, then why strive for better? They can re-pad a dopey premise, and if the film makes money, then it’s a strike in the win column as far as shareholders are concerned. So what possible incentive could they have to change the system?

This is where we, the audience, comes in. In order to stop Hollywood sinking into the tar pits, we have to strive to be better too. We must demand better content and eschew the desire to make a night of just any movie, because it is oh, so shiny and new or plays inside the cool, dark, magical place of a theatre.

Even the smallest low-budget films require an enormous amount of time, effort, and (yes) talent (Have you seen the documentary, “American Movie”?). Why not ask Hollywood to focus that energy into something great, instead of just profitable? I propose, instead of lowering our standards to see Sandler’s cast-off schlock, settle in and watch a great movie you may have missed, or one that truly bears re-watching. 

Looking for romantic comedy? Has your significant other ever seen “It Happened One Night”, “The Awful Truth”, “The Lady Eve” or “Pillow Talk”? Watch one of these classics together; you’ll laugh, but you’ll feel smarter doing it. I promise it will be a better time than Drew and Adam smooching after being comically attacked by wild dogs or bees, or dogs with bees in their mouths so that when they bark, bees come out — or whatever happens in this “Blended” stinker.   

Looking for slapstick? Catch Woody Allen’s “Bananas”, about young Fielding Mellish (Woody himself) becoming the dictator of the banana republic of San Marcos – and find out why the official language of San Marcos may be Swedish, and where they hide the kaiser rolls. Catch “Silver Streak”, a highly diverting Hitchcock spoof starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor; you’ll see what it takes to put a smile on a runaway train.

There are so many movies to see (and introduce to others) that are hilarious, romantic, and intelligent. Stand up for them and for the kind of entertainment you deserve, the kind that doesn’t waste two hours of your life. We may just help Hollywood rise a few inches because of it.

Our bold stand might be taking hold already - if the poor returns from the first weekend of “Blended” are any indication (with just $18 Million expected over the four days of the Memorial Day holiday on a film that cost roughly $45 Million). If we are lucky, we will get the last laugh.  

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