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In 2014, Adam Sandler and his production company Happy Madison inked a lucrative deal with Netflix to star in four movies on the streaming platform. The first two, The Ridiculous 6 and The Do-Over, were grating and uninspired – but they evidently attracted enough eyeballs to make Netflix add another four films to Sandler’s contract last year, bringing the prospective total to eight. Bankable as he may be, though, Sandler’s work with Netflix (with the exception of the non-contractual Noah Baumbach-directed The Meyerowitz Stories, one of the actor’s all-time best performances) has thus far suggested a man on autopilot, unwilling to update his shtick so long as the checks keep coming in.
The first product since that extended commission, a lukewarm comedy called The Week Of, is much of the same, with Sandler in his archetypal role as Kenny, a foundering, self-deprecating, middle-class family man trying to organize his daughter’s wedding, which, as the title suggests, is this week! Playing Kenny’s future in-law is Chris Rock as Kirby, the father of the groom, a wealthy, womanizing surgeon from Los Angeles who makes his way to Long Island for the nuptials.
A lighthearted Sandler/Rock collaboration ought to be comedy gold, especially with assists from Rachel Dratch and Steve Buscemi, but here the two seem amazingly bored, having been shoehorned into a script (by Robert Smigel and Sandler) that borrows from films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Father of the Bride, The In-Laws and Our Family Wedding while coasting on the name and charm of its two leads. There are laughs, but they’re meek, and almost all of them come at the expense of either a double-amputee war veteran named Seymour or a mildly autistic teenager named Noah, whose “triggers” are mentioned exhaustively.
Then again, it’s easy to be triggered by the sheer number of people on-screen, almost all of whom are crammed into Kenny’s single-family home, where both families have claustrophobically united in the run-up to the wedding. There are at least a dozen siblings, cousins and in-laws, among whom the wealth is spread, and two chatty Jewish grandmas who are funny if not unprecedented. Dratch, as Kenny’s wife, is reliably strong in an exaggerated Long Island accent, and Buscemi taps into his Carl-from-Fargo persona to play the kooky cousin chewing on a life-sized bar of Toblerone chocolate.
The best of the ensemble is Katie Hartman, playing the sister of the bride, who wears a look of hilarious self-satisfaction after suggesting that Don’t Stop Believin’ be played at the wedding. Hartman, one-half of the comedy duo Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting, is a quick, energetic performer in the vein of Aidy Bryant, and one can only hope she’ll be seen more often on screen after working with Rock and Sandler.
But the dynamic between those two marquee actors leaves a lot to be desired. Kenny, a prideful pushover with a sweet spot for his eldest daughter, insists on paying for the wedding, even though the shabby hotel where it’s being held is falling apart and the groom’s father offers to book the ballroom at the Plaza. As the movie progresses, clocking in at an unnecessarily long 110 minutes, Kenny is bamboozled into hosting his future in-laws for the week, forcing Kirby, more accustomed to LA and St Lucia, to sleep on the floor next to strangers. What we assume might turn into a patriarchal power struggle never reaches a boil, making for an overly sentimental movie that misuses the outsize talents of its two big stars.
After The Meyerowitz Stories, a Netflix release separate from Sandler’s Happy Madison deal with the platform, there arrived a wave of thinkpieces about how Sandler really can act (as though Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer and Punch-Drunk Love hadn’t already proved this). To me, the more appropriate question – in the wake of a quartet of underwhelming Netflix films – is whether or not he actually wants to.
- The Week Of streams on Netflix from 27 April
Source: The Guardian
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