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‘Sandy Wexler’ Review: Adam Sandler’s Newest Netflix Comedy Helps Explain Why He Keeps Making So Many Bad Movies

Sandler's third Netflix comedy arrives as something of a mission statement, finding a loose moral justification for all of his bad movies.

Sandy Wexler Adam Sandler

“Sandy Wexler”

Netflix/Screenshot

The “Lawrence of Arabia” of half-assed Adam Sandler comedies, “Sandy Wexler” is an epic period piece that spans 10 years and 131 minutes of mildly amusing mediocrity before climaxing with a Rob Schneider cameo where he plays a Middle Eastern man in full brownface — it’s awful, and yet it’s almost objectively Sandler’s best movie since “Funny People.”

Of course, quality has never been a very useful metric for measuring Sandler’s work, and that’s especially true now that we’re knee-deep in an eight-picture Netflix deal which guarantees that, for the foreseeable future, we can expect new Sandler films to arrive with all the predictably of seasonal allergies. Once upon a time, he was a cottage industry — now, he’s an assembly line.

But if “Sandy Wexler” is only the slightest bit funnier than “The Do-Over” or “The Ridiculous Six,” the third of Sandler’s streaming offerings is also the first of them that feels like it has anything to say. In fact, a generous case could be made that this movie (if that’s what we’re calling these things) is something of a mission statement for the comedy icon — it doesn’t forgive his decades of drivel, but it reframes them as a selfless moral imperative. Inspired by Sandler’s longtime manager, “Sandy Wexler” argues that loyalty is more important than petty concerns like “fame” or “respect” ormaking things that people can watch without wanting to die,” and the star’s body of work bears that out as a genuine personal ethos. Forget “The Fate of the Furious,” this is the most family-driven film of the week.

Imagine, if you will, the early 1990s: “The Arsenio Hall Show” is still on the air, Tower Records is booming, and the internet doesn’t really exist yet, so everybody who wants to become somebody needs help from someone like Sandy Wexler (Sandler) — not Sandy Wexler, but someone like Sandy Wexler. One of those sad Los Angeles caricatures who dresses like a blind Florida retiree and laughs a little too loud at every joke, the nasal and nebbishy Sandy is effectively a “Mad Magazine” parody of Ari Gold. He doesn’t represent Harrison Ford, he represents the guy whose heart was ripped out of his chest in “The Temple of Doom.” From a kooky ventriloquist (Sandler regular Kevin James) to a cursed trapeze artist (Sandler charity case Nick Swardson), his Filofax doubles as an index of Hollywood’s most hopeless dreamers.

READ MORE: Netflix Picks Up New Noah Baumbach Movie Starring Adam Sandler

But so what if Sandy has all the social grace of a cold sore — he cares. No, he can never find quality gigs for his clients, and no, he can never seem to remember their names, and no, there’s no use rooting for anyone dumb enough to trust this guy with their future, but the movie clearly wants us to believe him when he looks someone in the eye and says, “An agent is business, a manager is family.” That line may not work on Arsenio, but it’s convincing enough for Courtney (Jennifer Hudson, believe it or not), an incredibly talented singer whom Sandy discovers singing for little kids at an amusement park. The manager has stars in his eyes the moment he hears her voice, and their chance encounter sparks the start of a career that the film will follow from the bottom to the top and all points in between.

“Sandy Wexler”

After a surprisingly spirited first act, “Sandy Wexler” soon settles into a moribund rhythm, the story moving through the years so slowly that it feels like it’s being told in real-time. The only thing on Netflix that’s paced worse than the first season of “Iron Fist,” the movie runs slack as soon as Courtney makes it big. Sandler and Hudson may have less romantic chemistry than Donald Trump and Angela Merkel, but their characters share a certain earnestness, and the film’s sweet spirit can’t survive the decision to keep them apart for so long.

Instead of allowing any sense of humanity to take hold, “Little Nicky” director Steven Brill doubles down on a series of increasingly interminable comedic setpieces, dark voids of laughter that are only interrupted by a star-studded framing device in which showbiz luminaries like Lorne Michaels and Vanilla Ice wax poetic about their good friend Sandy. For every remotely clever scene (there’s a solid bit involving a severely stupid sound engineer, and a shockingly violent gag with a stunt raccoon), there are three more that stretch on for eternity.

At a certain point — roughly around the time that Terry Crews shows up as a baby-obsessed wrestler, or something — it starts to seem as though Sandler is happy to give up on the story so long as it allows him to fit in more of his friends. Is Sandy actually good for Courtney’s career, or is he too infatuated to notice that he’s hampering her success? Eh, never mind, Allen Covert just showed up. Is there anything behind Sandy’s malformed Hollywood dreams? Silence, children, Pauly Shore is talking (and he’s surrounded by a phalanx of babes). After making a number of movies in which he’s just been hanging out with his buddies, Sandler has made a movie about why: As “Funny People” first suggested, Adam Sandler is the patron saint of mildly talented comedians.

Loyal to a fault, he looks after the people he loves, and he cares about them a hell of a lot more than he does any of the films they make together — it’s not his problem that Netflix invented a business model that privileges casual viewing and then paid him a fortune to exploit it. The fact that “Sandy Wexler” is itself a tribute to one of Sandler’s closest friends in showbiz only cements the impression that he’s extremely eager to take care of his own. And that’s wonderful, but given how many more of these things he has in the making, it sure would be nice if Sandler reserved even a smidgen of concern for the rest of us.

Grade: C-

“Sandy Wexler” is now streaming on Netflix.

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Comments

Woody

Can’t believe there is no mention of BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, in which this is basically a direct rip off down to him representing a singer, and the people talking about him. Woody did it much better – BDR was watchable and holds up. Not like this unwatchable Sandler drivel. Sandler is so grating now. He’s an embarrassment.

Charlidarwin

Great way to open up with ending spoiler in first sentence… least it wasnt in the headline you numbnuts.

Alan Smithee

Adam Sandler’s films are appealing for one reason only, the LOVE people feel from him onscreen. Sure the films are not cinematic masterpieces, but the $100 million box office appeal was because people felt the love and so they cut him slack on the rest. Better to be one of the good guys in Hollywood that can actually help your bottom line believe it or now. Look at United Airlines – HATED. But we all love Adam.

    William

    It’s nice to hear from somebody who seems to get it. I grew up with Adam Sandler on tv and in movies. From SNL and Happy Gilmore to Sandy Wexler my friends and i have never stopped watching. Mr. Sandler is a talented actor who everyday people can relate to. He makes you fall in love with his characters and through that i developed a great respect for the man himself. Anyone who’s ever watched him in an interview can tell how humble and caring a man he is. I’m not fond of all of his buddies in his movies but you know what, Good for him. He’s able to continue to do what he loves and have his friends by his side while he does it. Somebody or maybe a few somebody’s have him his first chances so why not give Vanilla Ice his 4th or 5th chance? Who does it hurt!? It says a lot about popular culture these days that instead of recognizing a good man in Hollywood who is a consistent earner it’s somehow more hip to bash a man who has paved Rhett way for many comics and actors working today. It speaks volumes that Jennifer Aniston and Drew Barrymore are not just willingly but excited to work with Adam over and over. They know what critics say and they don’t care! They don’t care because Adam Sandler is a good person who likes to have clean fun, work with his friends and raise his family. Apparently he needs a few DUI’s or trips to rehab before the critics thin he’s worthy. Maybe a few divorces or bankruptcies will have them saying nicer things about him. I guess the last thing I want to say is if you don’t like his movies for god’s sake don’t watch them. Quit pissing off those of us who in a million years would never want to post comments on this ridiculous site. And to those of you who feel like i do, Good for you.

Isaac Keith Martinez

Comedy is subjective. Sandler’s work is a terrific balance of creativity and heart. How do I even know if you’re qualified to give this film the review you gave it? How do we know what your sense of humor is like? Picking on Sandler is a lazy new bandwagon that dull people like to jump on. I just watched SANDY WEXLER and I enjoyed it very much. Sorry you have trouble finding joy in good things. Your review was bad. Does it suck knowing that Sandler will be remembered (positive or negatively) and you won’t be?

    Sandy Wexler

    Ohhhhh 😁😁 I think somebody had too many bacon bits

Lawrence

This is in fact Sandler’s best film since Funny People. I was pleasantly surprised, better than the reviews it’s been getting. Problem is the last fifteen minutes or so, the wrong ending. It needed something darker, instead it was sentimental goo, wishful thinking. Aside from the last act though, it really is a good comedy, and Sandler really is funny. And I despise most all of his movies, as much as anybody. Yet this is a cut way above his usual shtick, even taking into account the disappointing ending, which needed to be more realistic, in keeping with the first act.

John

If Sandler was a goyim he would be tending bar somewhere.

Bubbles

For the millions he got for the Netflix deal, Sandler can’t even be bothered to come up with his own premise anymore? Thirty seconds into the Sandy Wexler trailer, Broadway Danny Rose screams from the film graveyard of an egregious plagiarism that pays neither homage nor tribute, but rather trivializes creativity in exchange for an easy payday.

What’s almost as shocking as Sandler’s blatant creative infringement, is the fact that the ‘stars’ who participate are willing accomplices in Sandler’s contemptible endeavor.

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