It’s no secret that critics, especially the most old media among them, hate Adam Sandler. They hate his movies simply for existing and their negative reviews of his work are all but written long before they see his latest laugher. Anyone who thinks he’s funny is automatically labeled a moron and dismissed as part of the uneducated, unwashed masses that old media types so often disdain. I’m not saying everything he’s done has been gold, but Sandler’s films have made a genuine contribution to the fabric of American comedy and out here in the real world, the guy is re-watched over and over again. He’s more than beloved. When it comes to Sandler, critics clearly have no idea what they’re talking about.
As evidence you need only look back at the reviews he’s received. His movies have made billions but of his comedies only one has ever received a fresh rating on RottenTomatoes and even that film, The Wedding Singer, garnered only a marginal, somewhat begrudging critical approval. I can’t begin to explain how a critic who praises and embraces the raunchy humor of The 40-Year-Old Virgin turns around and bashes the same thing in a Sandler movie, but it happens. I’m not saying his films are on the same level as Virgin or Knocked Up, those movies are more than comedies, but the tone of their humor is similar. It’s one thing if you simply don’t find it funny, it’s another if you’re going to call Sandler out as some sort of sicko who caters only to the brain dead, while approving of exactly the same thing when done by someone else.
The vicious hatred directed at Sandler from old media critics and a few hidebound new media ones is perhaps the biggest disconnect between reviewers and audience in Hollywood. But this week it took an even more twisted and ridiculous turn when Cinematical’s Eric Kohn came up with a new way to bash him: Adam Sandler is a Republican! Does that mean we can blame him for Iraq?
In his rant Kohn stops just short of blaming the Sandman for 9/11. He does however engage in one of the oddest diatribes I’ve ever seen online, in some sort of strange and misguided attempt to label Sandler’s movies as conservative propaganda. As evidence he lists Sandler films as if he’s reading off the members of Hitler’s inner circle, and in particular he picks on Sandler’s latest movie You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. As evidence of Zohan’s neo-conservative agenda he says, “Gliding along on stupid-humor autopilot, the movie operates under the guise of a balanced perspective. Zohan convinces the Israeli electronics vendors across the street to make nice with their Palestinian neighbors, and we even hear them discuss a little political common ground.” Common ground? Holy hell, sounds like Zohan was written by Pat Robertson! Oh no, wait. He makes his real point later by saying, “"Here," concludes one character, "we're all the same." That clinches it: Zohan isn't pro-Israel or pro-Palestine; it's pro-America.” Ah hah! Now we see the real crime. These immigrants love America! Clearly Sandler is in the pay of the Bush administration.
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is potentially the most political film Sandler has tackled, but then it’s also the first movie he’s co-written with Judd Apatow, a comedy writer much loved by liberals, conservatives, and people who don’t give a shit alike. Meanwhile Zohan, though it tackles the heady topic of terrorism, goes out of its way to completely remove the political bullshit from the whole Middle East conflict. The closest the film gets to addressing any of it, is a forgettable scene in which Zohan confesses he doesn’t care who wins, he just wishes they’d cut it out. Wow… what an evil Bush conservative this Sandler is! Wait, don’t conservatives back Israel?
Adam Sandler may have occasionally contributed to conservative political candidates, but any attempt to draw a comparison between his staunchly apolitical films and some sort of evil, vast right wing conspiracy isn’t just wrongheaded, it’s laughable. You’re telling me that Happy Gilmore is promoting a conservative agenda? What, liberals don’t like to play golf? Billy Madison’s secret agenda is probably to push Reganomics. If you look closely, the penguin looks a lot like Nixon.
Until Chuck & Larry, Sandler had stayed far away from anything even remotely political. Meanwhile, despite all the attempts to label it as homophobic, Chuck & Larry is (whether or not it goes about it in the right way), primarily a movie about gay acceptance. Activists may be quick to piss on it, but even a bad movie like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry has done more to promote gay acceptance than a movie like Brokeback Mountain ever could, since let’s face it, Brokeback preaches only to the converted. Homophobic rednecks weren’t exactly lining up to see it and have their minds changed. Chuck and Larry on the other hand does something Brokeback Mountain never will, by making otherwise uncomfortable people feel comfortable with homosexuality. If that’s not the first step on the road to accepting it, I don’t know what is. Apologies if you find it homophobic that two straight guys don’t want to kiss, but that hardly makes Adam Sandler the right hand of Karl Rove.
Cinematical is a fine website and I’ve enjoyed much of the great work done over there by great writers like Erik Davis and Elisabeth Rappe. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Yet it’s hard enough to understand the refusal of the media at large to suck it up admit Sandler is occasionally funny, let alone find sense in these new heights of absurdity Eric Kohn seems intent on taking the hatred of Sandler to. It’s not enough for hating Adam Sandler to be a critics versus audiences issue, now it has to be a red state/blue state issue too? Do we really need to conjure new excuses for critics to hate Adam Sandler out of thin air? The media has done a pretty good job of hating him without the random invention of political pigeonholing to feed the right-wing paranoia of their more leftist members. Leave Sandler alone. It’s about time someone stood up and gave the guy some credit for being what he really is: funny.