Humor is murdered over the course of 119 deathly minutes by Adam Sandler in “The Ridiculous 6,” a Western spoof that, like its protagonist’s feats of magical heroism, is best described as “some mystical shit.” Mired in pre-release controversy over its supposedly offensive characterizations of Native Americans — which drove some extras to abandon the project — Sandler’s first of four exclusive features for Netflix turns out to be distasteful in every regard, an abysmal riff on “The Magnificent Seven” in which hoary stereotypes and oater clichés are exploited for equally groan-worthy gags. Without an amusing instinct in its cowboy-hatted head, this painfully protracted, puerile effort meanders about the Old West as if it were making up its nonsense on the fly. The result is a torturous genre joke that marks a new low not only for the star, but for the art of cinematic comedy.
Boasting a stoic countenance and monotone voice that vacillates between Native American broken-English and cowpoke-y American twanginess, Sandler is Tommy, aka White Knife, a white man raised by the Apache, who taught him how to both handle a blade and fight with superhuman speed. He’s a glum sort of cartoon, and “The Ridiculous 6” opens with a demonstration of his extraordinary combat abilities before reuniting him with his long-lost outlaw father Frank Stockburn (Nick Nolte). At tedious, mirth-free length, Frank tells Tommy about his dead mom, and is then kidnapped by a desperado named Cicero (Danny Trejo) who covets the $50,000 Frank filched from him. Determined to save dear old dad, Tommy endeavors to steal enough money to settle Frank’s debt with Cicero, though like a noble Robin Hood, he only pilfers from evil, undeserving wealthy bankers and crooks.
During the course of his quest, Tommy encounters a number of weirdoes who — thanks to Frank’s indiscriminate carousing — all share his parentage, as well as his wholesale humorlessness. Ramon (Rob Schneider) is a Mexican whose beloved burro has explosive diarrhea. Lil’ Pete (Taylor Lautner) is a giggling simpleton with three nipples. Chico (Terry Crews) is a saloon piano player who thinks it’s a bombshell to reveal to his half-siblings that he’s black. Danny (Luke Wilson) is a drunk who can hold his breath for a long time, and whose departure from his security post led to Lincoln’s assassination. And Herm (Jorge Garcia) is a hairy, grunting mute brute with one tooth. Together, they share not a single chuckle-worthy trait, impulse or catchphrase, which is all the more disastrous given that “The Ridiculous 6” doesn’t concoct any inventive, amusing scenarios for its characters, so busy it is engaging in rote standoffs, shootouts and other clashes embellished by lame CG effects.
Native American women possess names such as “Wears No Bra,” “Smoking Fox,” and “Beaver Breath;” Ramon talks about the deliciousness of tacos; and white people are ridiculed for being bad dancers — Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy’s script performs cultural mockery with all the incisive skill of a blind surgeon wielding a hammer. Not helping matters is a cavalcade of Sandler pals appearing in dim, one-note cameos. Will Forte is the leader of a gang of eye-patched bandits who utters things like “Kemo-slobby” and “Poca-hot-tits.” Vanilla Ice is a hip-hop slang-spouting Mark Twain. Harvey Keitel is a bar owner who bites off would-be burglars’ fingers. David Spade is a long-locked General Custer. Jon Lovitz is a racist gambler. Blake Shelton is a gun-blasting Wyatt Earp. Chris Parnell is an intolerant bank owner. John Turturro is Abner Doubleday, who enlists the sextet in the first official game of baseball (which he calls “Sticky McSchnickens.”) And in the film’s nadir, Steve Buscemi is a barber who uses the same handful of ointment to treat Herm’s crotch rash, shave Ramon’s beard, soothe the burro’s behind, palliate Lil’ Pete’s tooth-extraction pain, and moisturize his own lips.
The only truly funny joke in this fiasco is director Frank Coraci’s clumsy use of expansive Panavision widescreen, with his visuals exhibiting the flat, inert unsightliness that marred his prior Sandler collaborations “The Waterboy,” “Click,” and “Blended.” Unlike “Blazing Saddles” or even Seth MacFarlane’s intolerable “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” the film doesn’t try to satirize its famed Western predecessors; instead, it merely appropriates stale tropes in order to stage pitiful slapstick pratfalls and straight-faced climactic showdowns. Tommy and company may only plunder from rich and powerful enemies, but with the lazy, misshapen “The Ridiculous 6,” Sandler robs his new Netflix benefactors blind. [D-]