For years, having Adam Sandler’s name associated with a project has served as a kind of warning label for those who tired of his man-child schtick back in the late 1990s. Yet, despite the significant hate often lobbed Sandler’s way, he just keeps on cranking out one lowbrow comedy after another, wringing every last bit of fan goodwill with each painfully unfunny punchline. Yet, miraculously, he’s not only kept working, but also managed to land a lucrative multi-picture deal with Netflix, a contract that was recently extended. In fact, the latest effort to come from the deal, Sandy Wexler, is currently threatening to invade your home at this very moment.
In the new film, Sandler plays the titular talent agent, a pathological liar and messy eater whose fledgling agency gets a big break when he discovers singer Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson). Set in the mid-1990s, Sandy Wexler recounts the character’s career and his relationship with his latest protege, using a present-day framing device to contrast Wexler’s self-image and his actual reputation throughout the industry. In the process, Sandler brings to the screen one of his most obnoxious characters in years, complete with an irritating voice that viewers are then forced to endure for the full 130-minute runtime (!).
Oh, it gets better. Anchored by an insufferable lead performance, the film also recruits essentially all of Sandler’s most frequent
accomplices collaborators either for cameo appearances or supporting roles. As a throwback to Sandler’s Saturday Night Live days, seeing gifted comedic talents like Chris Rock and Dana Carvey show up should be a good deal of nostalgic fun, but with how bad Sandy Wexler really is, it’s simply apparent that Sandler used the production as an excuse to hang out with his friends yet again. Worst of all, Kevin James – yup, Paul Blart himself – shows up as a struggling ventriloquist comedian who takes part in perhaps the most tasteless sequence in the film.
In addition to the parade of famous faces, Sandy Wexler hangs its lifeless script on a wholly unconvincing love story between Hudson and Sandler. The two lack any real sense of chemistry, and you can almost feel Hudson’s reluctance in her performance, as if she’s crossing her fingers before every scene that the Academy doesn’t retroactively reclaim her decade-old Oscar for her participation here. To be fair, Hudson’s talent as a vocalist provides the only fleeting respites from the mind-numbing story surrounding it, even though the songs she performs are pretty derivative in their own right.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of Sandy Wexler isn’t its bland or annoying characters, its cookie-cutter story or even the same cheap physical comedy Sandler had become known for. No, the biggest problem very well may be its 1990s setting. With nostalgia for that decade at an all-time high, it makes sense that Sandler would capitalize on that and maybe even toss in some era-appropriate pop culture references, as he with the 1980s back in The Wedding Singer. However, while that 1998 film was able to rest on a cute love story and the solid chemistry between Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Sandy Wexler turns to pointless self-aware jokes about Apple, Blockbuster Video and O.J. Simpson to stand in for well-constructed gags. Whether it’s recurring appearances by Arsenio Hall, dated catchphrases like “all that and a bag of chips,” or an entire scene explaining email, the film hits viewers over the head with 1990s iconography, hoping that it’s enough to distract from the lack of anything resembling real entertainment value.
Somewhere between Opera Man and Jack and Jill, Sandler has come to embrace his status quo as the reigning king of indefensible comedy. His films consistently smack of desperation, as if the now-50-year-old actor isn’t retreading the same material because he wants to. He simply doesn’t know any other way to do it. In a long career brimming with truly dreadful films, Sandy Wexler may well be one of Sandler’s most bizarre and weakest entries to date (a bold claim, we know). Though “complicit” is a term that has making headlines lately, it’s hard to not assign at least some blame to the circle of celebrity friends and collaborators – including director Steven Brill (Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds) – who are so willing to perpetuate the self-destructive creative path Sandler’s been trapped on for years. The sad reality for many of us critics of his collective filmography is that – whether you love Sandler or loathe him, more films like Sandy Wexler are already on the way. Consider this fair warning.
Just when you thought Sandler couldn't embarrass himself any further, he drops the laughless mess known as Sandy Wexler on Netflix subscribers.