Last week, I made mention that I think Adam Sandler could be one of our best actors of his generation.
I said could be based on his performances in a handful of films that get away from his ‘usual roles.’ I would also add a few other that play on those themes but are better than many of his comedy movies.
Most of us know Sandler for a being a comedian willing to work crude, low down comedy. And I realize that a lot of people like those movie such as Billy Madison and Little Nicky.
People like this type of comedy, they like Sandler when he does these types of movies and these types of movies make lots of money. But there are times when I think he gets bored and does something a little different to break up the monotony.
One movie that jumped out at me in this regards was Punch Drunk Love in which Sandler plays a man who has his own business but is treated like an idiot by his older sisters. Then he meets Emily Watson and they fall in love. There is a side story about a phone sex company extorting money, adding more layers to this man.
Paul T. Anderson directs this movie that explores the hidden depths of anger and sadness in the lovable character that Sandler plays. He has to carry a different story and it works, it works well.
Another movie that increased my respect for Sandler was Spanglish. Here, Sandler is the chef and owner of a restaurant. His wife, Tea Leoni, has hired a new housekeeper in Paz Vega.
It is in this performance I see a sensitivity I do not see in other movies with Sandler, a willingness to be vulnerable, thanks to director James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment). To me it is a great performance and I love watching this movie for the great ensemble that includes Cloris Leachman.
I also love Reign Over Me in which Sandler plays a man who lost his wife and daughters in one of the 9/11 plane crashes. His character is devastated by his loss to the point he does not interact well with others until a former classmate finds him.
Don Cheadle is a withdrawn man with a successful business and loving family who needs Sandler as much as Sandler needs him. Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger) pushes Sandler in a different direction and gets a different performance.
A movie I mentioned last week, 50 First Dates re-connects Sandler with Drew Barrymore with whom he worked with in The Wedding Singer. These romantic comedies move Sandler to be more than his usual persona, more than the lovable goofball, more than ‘that guy.’
The thing is, when Sandler makes that effort and goes beyond what we know of him, he is really wonderful in his acting. It shows up in movies such as the dramody Funny People and the whacked-out You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.
One family movie that stars Sandler is Bedtime Stories. We love watching as a family because it is touching and emotional and funny. Plus, we love the guinea pig as well as Russell Brand. It is one of Sandler’s better films.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.