The Do-Over arrives on Netflix just over five months after The Ridiculous 6, the first of Adam Sandler’s four-picture deal with the studio. The flippant, but horribly inconsistent, fun of Sandler’s films actually suits their output. They’re the sort of films you can have on in the background, hoping to catch a funny moment, but without paying too much attention to.
Thankfully The Do-Over is an improvement upon The Ridiculous 6, which once again saw Adam Sandler phoning it in but just in a western instead. It helps that in The Do-Over, Sandler genuinely seems to be having fun opposite his old friend David Spade, as the duo lead the way without the presence of their Grown Ups pals Chris Rock and Kevin James for the first time.
Adam Sandler and David Spade play two old friends who reconnect at their high school reunion. Both admit that their lives haven’t panned out quite as well as they’d hoped, with David Spade’s Charlie McMillian working in a dead-end job and stuck in a lifeless marriage and Adam Sandler’s Max Kessler just as unhappy. This provokes Max to take the rather drastic measure of faking their deaths so that they can re-start their lives. But the identities that they take over soon prove to be in much more trouble than either of them could imagine.
Both Spade and Sandler’s characters actually help to negate the annoying tendencies that have made their most recent performances so hard to watch. David Spade plays an introvert, which immediately cuts down to his sarcastic retorts, while Adam Sandler’s Max Kessler is unpredictable and a borderline psychopath, so you can barely trust him.
In fact, as Max Kessler, Sandler actually incorporates a nice mishmash of his most watchable traits. There’s an edge that evokes memories of Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Wedding Singer, as well his usual everyman appeal that’s been a mainstay of the last 20 years, and even eventually an emotion that he’s displayed in the likes of Reign Over Me, Punch Drunk Love, and The Cobbler. It doesn’t really add to anything memorable, but it makes Sandler closer to complex than he’s been for a while. Especially in a mainstream comedy.
As well as the pair being pushed beyond their usual shtick, there is a genuine warmth and enjoyment to their patter and camaraderie that produces a healthy amount of laughs. In fact, for the first 30 or so minutes, The Do-Over actually includes numerous scenes that are pretty funny, including the most depressing threesome you’re ever likely to see in cinema.
But rather than building to the overall narrative, they’re more like sketches. In fact, The Do-Over becomes the usual sub-standard Sandler effort when it actually starts to incorporate a substantial plot. To be fair to the film, the meandering narrative gives The Do-Over drive and intrigue that keeps it interesting. However, the laughs soon dry up, and there’s the return of the homophobic, bro-ish jokes that are too close to offensive to evoke laughter. In fact, the last hour passes by in a haze of pathetic plotting and dire jokes.
Paula Patton and Kathryn Hahn pep things up when they’re on screen, but The Do-Over becomes too erratic to be considered a return to form for Sandler. It’s far from the worst thing that Adam Sandler has ever done, though, and the fact that he seems to be somewhat trying is a welcome sign of improvement.