Jun-22-2017

Reel Snippet – Sandy Wexler

Summary: Ask anyone in Hollywood and they’ll tell you that Sandy Wexler (Adam Sandler) is one of the most kind, genuine, and hard working talent agents in the city. Those same people will tell you that he’s also flakey, erratic, and prone to making some really weird decisions. They’ll say both of those because they’re true: Sandy is a very eccentric fellow who takes good care of his small group of talent — including ventriloquist Ted Rafferty (Kevin James) and wrestler “Bedtime” Bobby Barnes (Terry Crews; Shad Gaspard in-ring) — even if he doesn’t make the best calls for them. Everything changed in the 1990s when he came across talented singer Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson) and takes her under his wing. To Sandy’s delight, her career takes off and becomes a star, but he starts to realize that he might be holding her back. He promised he wouldn’t mix work and friendship, but he and Courtney are growing closer by the day and they may have to decide between career and happiness.

Review: Sandy Wexler is an… interesting beast to talk about because it’s a huge hodgepodge of varying quality. It’s a Happy Madison film, so there’s a bit of junk to wade through, but there are also bits of heart, good writing, and genuine comedy. In fact, I dare say I’ve found a modern Adam Sandler film I find tolerable. It’s not quite amazing, but it’s a marathon run in the right direction.

I have this odd feeling that Sandler’s been reading my reviews because a number of things I’ve harped on in the past are gone. Here, Sandler doesn’t play the straight man and has a very flawed character. Sandy is a total kook who tanks more careers than he saves, a far cry from the self-insertion ego stroking of the past. True, Sandler’s relying on a funny voice, but that’s kind of what he does best. Even so, this guy can get dramatic when the film calls for it while also having some moments that, god help me, I legitimately laughed at. The line about the house where Bill Crosby “died three times” still cracks me up.

In fact, there were quite a few moments that made me laugh without guilt, which is rare in Sandler films nowadays. They came from places I didn’t expect either, like when Kevin James’ character and his puppets heckled Wexler. Yeah, Kevin James of all people made me laugh! Not everything hits bullseye — in fact, there are quite a few jokes that made me cringe — but those that do are pretty nice.

Unfortunately, it’s still a Happy Madison film which means there’s a lot of bull**** that comes with it. The film is too long by about thirty minutes and full of stuff we don’t need, like a cavalcade of cameos from Sandler’s old friends and coworkers. Also, I feel like Sandler’s afraid to fully embrace the risks of trying to make a good film, as there are a number of poignant scenes that are ruined by unneeded attempts at comedy. Also, the plot turns into a quest to get the girl, which to its credit has a number of touching moments. But I’m sorry, Jennifer Hudson is a beautiful, talented woman and I don’t want her to end up with a shlub like Adam Sandler.

Anyway, I was actually willing to overlook all that and give the movie a tentative thumbs up… until the movie made a tasteless suicide joke and had Rob Schneider play a Middle-Eastern man and my rage gaskets blew like pent up pistons. Suicide as comedy needs to be handled very carefully (if at all) and this movie handled it in the most tactless and mean spirited way possible. It also doesn’t help that the nature of the joke evoked memories of Robin Williams’ untimely death, so thanks for reopening that wound. As for Rob Schneider… look, it’s great that he can imitate all these different accents, but here’s the thing: CASTING A WHITE ACTOR TO PLAY AN ETHNIC CHARACTER IS NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN OKAY! Whether it’s a bomb like The Last Airbender or something critically acclaimed like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it is not okay. And don’t try and con me into thinking he has some ethnic background that makes it okay — I checked and his family tree’s whiter than the Osmonds in a snow storm.

So this leaves me with a perplexing dilemma because while there’s a lot to like about it, there’s also a lot to hate about it. Personally, I’m glad I saw it and hope Adam Sandler keeps pushing himself to get even better. But I can’t pretend there aren’t some really garbage parts of this. Sandler is still clinging to some bad habits and I couldn’t blame people for thinking we won’t get a great film from him until Moses returns to part the Red Band Trailers. Still, compared to the last three films I reviewed, this is freaking Citizen Kane.

…okay, that might be going a bit far… let’s try this: compared to the last three films I reviewed, this is Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Fun Tidbit: The film, and by extension the character of Sandy, is a satirical homage to Sandler’s real life manager, Sandy Wernick. That could explain all the heart present in this movie, as Sandler clearly thinks the world of this fellow, despite his apparent craziness.


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