Compared to The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over is a Criterion-bound masterpiece. Then again, compare anything to The Ridiculous 6 and I’m sure you’d mistake it for the second coming of Kubrick, so let’s be honest about The Do-Over – it’s not Adam Sandler’s worst, but that bar couldn’t sink any lower. Netflix has given the once-legendary comedian carte blanche, as Sandler tries desperately to win back his fanbase’s waning support – a gamble CEO Reed Hastings has to be questioning by now. The Do-Over is more survivable than expected, but Sandler just seems to be begging for help at this point, hoping social justice and David Spade can save him from yet another critically-ignored misfire.
In this identity-swapping “thriller,” Max (Adam Sandler) and Charlie (David Spade) decide to trade their shitty lives with two dead corpses who won’t be missed. Of course, Max doesn’t inform Charlie of this plan, so he drugs his old high school buddy and unknowingly gives him a new identity. After a small (expected) spout, the duo get back to their new, more enviable lives, until a deadly conspiracy comes back to haunt Butch Ryder (Sandler) and Dr. Ronald P. Fishman (Spade). Apparently, Dr. Fishman was on the verge of a cancer-curing breakthrough, but funding was pulled last minute which left patients like Butch with a death sentence. Embroiled in conspiracy, Max and Charlie must continue what their namesakes started, even if it involves gymnast assassins and leather-loving bikers.
In my Tribeca review of Mr. Church, I commended Eddie Murphy for refusing to force humor when he’s not feeling it. As a counterpoint, I referenced Sandler’s recent run of unfunny comedies that pushed the same Happy Madison humor without any success or understanding. Sandler’s old SNL schtick simply isn’t working anymore, which is why I’m happy to see The Do-Over let both Spade and Sandler play more straight-shooting, grounded amigos. There’s little exaggeration, a tighter focus on restraint and – most importantly – a more enjoyable turn for two slapstick comedians who’ve built a career on snark and asshole-ish-ness.
That said, Sandler still gives off a feeling that Netflix has him chained like a prisoner, and acting brings him no joy anymore. Granted, a plotted twist might account for some of his stern faces further into a story that snowballs out of control, but the actor’s now-signature dead-face barely lets a smirk or smile peek through.
Give credit to some of the supporting cast members here though, who continue to invest mightily in Sandler’s off-kilter brand. I mean, does Luis Guzmán need to dangle his sweaty nutsack on camera just to make a few bucks? No (I hope)! Does Michael Chiklis deserve only two short meaningless scenes? No (I don’t think)! Does David Spade really need to lay under Luis Guzmán’s sweaty nutsack until a single drip of salty goodness drips on his face? Well, that one I’m honestly not sure about, but you catch my drift. Hell, the entire Sandler family gets involved this time around (wife/daughters), because what’s better than a family vacation to Puerto Rico on Netflix’s dime?
Ah, OK – this is all starting to make sense now.
Tonally, The Do-Over doesn’t mix action and comedy together as well as others, and certainly runs longer than necessary. Writers Kevin Barnett and Chris Pappas don’t find much comedy that’s worth laughing at (give maybe five times I truly couldn’t help myself), and action sequences are typically short and without much choreography sans Torsten Voges’s size-defying acrobatics. Too many foreshadowing moments are telegraphed in big, bold letters, reducing the impact of a story that continues to morph in weird, yet expected ways. Director Steven Brill does try his damnedest to make something memorable from this heap of tired clichés (Kathryn Hahn and Paula Patton throwing down hard, for example), but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen. It’s all pot-smoking buddies, zany schemes gone wrong and government shaming – plus a cancer subplot for good measure.
Did I hate myself for wasting precious Memorial Day Weekend hours on The Do-Over? Honestly, for a tired, before-bed Netflix selection, you could certainly find something worse. Just don’t expect high-quality entertainment, or stimulating action. That’s the most impassioned, detailed explanation I can muster. There’s nothing worth revolting over, nor anything redeeming beyond Sandler not earning a 1-star review. It’s a movie, it exists, and we’ll probably all forget that by the time next Memorial Day comes around.
The nicest thing I can say about The Do-Over is that you won't hate it, you'll just forget it mere hours after the credits roll.