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How Adam Sandler Feels About Punch-Drunk Love As The Movie Turns 20 Years Old

Ask a casual movie fan to name the five best Adam Sandler movies, and there’s a good chance they’d all pick comedies. The Saturday Night Live alumni certainly carved out his comedic audience in classics like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. But Sandler also has his fair share of serious roles like Uncut Gems, where he collaborated with an auteur filmmaker to help them achieve a specific vision. 

Those serious parts came around after Paul Thomas Anderson cast Adam Sandler against type in the 2002 feature Punch-Drunk Love, which at least one CinemaBlend staff member believes to be Sandler’s best movie. The tense and chaotic romance casts Sandler as a socially frustrated and hen-pecked loner who meets a potential love interest (Emily Watson), then does everything in his power not to screw it up. That seminal film turns 20 years old this year, so when we got the chance to speak with Sandler on behalf of his latest drama Hustle, we asked if he views Punch-Drunk as a movie that changed a lot for him as a performer. And he told us:

I view it as something that I had an amazing time doing. And it might have opened up other thoughts about me. I’m sure that happened. In my brain, I always thought, ‘Yeah, maybe one day, I’ll do a different style of movie.’ And luckily Paul wrote that movie, called me up, (and) said, ‘Let’s go.’ And I hear about that movie a lot. So it means a lot to me and I had an amazing time. Paul’s one of my best buddies. I love him. So that’s the greatest thing that happened with that movie.

The real victory, it seems, was the friends that Adam Sandler made along the way. Paul Thomas Anderson happens to be married to the hilarious Maya Rudolph, who pops up in Sandler films all of the time. The Bridesmaids star also easily transitions between comedy and drama, taking a role in her husband’s Licorice Pizza in 2021. But you could easily see how Sandler and Anderson end up in the same circles, though they have yet to collaborate again after Punch-Drunk Love. Maybe if PTA spots this story, he can write another story for The Sandman. Twenty years has been long enough of a wait!

Until that happens, you can check out Adam Sandler in another movie that makes great use of his passions, comedy and basketball, in Netflux’s Hustle. The reviews on the film have been great, with many praising not only Sandler’s turn as an NBA talent scout, but the screen presence of Utah Jazz player Juancho Hernangomez and Minnesota Timberwolves standout Anthony Edwards. They were all great in our interviews on behalf of Hustle, so make sure you check them out. Also, make sure that your Netflix subscription is up to date, so you can watch Hustle and many more features at your leisure.

Sean O'Connell
Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.