The latest Adam Sandler direct-to-Netflix movie is Sandy Wexler, with the prolific and polarizing former SNL star in the title role.
With only a few of what you might call belly laughs, the comedy film’s 131-minute running time seems excessive, but the plot does draw you in, assuming you get past the annoying voice and mannerisms that Sandler incorporates in the role as the Atkins diet-loving, fashion-challenged Sandy Wexler.
If you’re a Netflix subscriber looking for something to watch over the weekend, remember that with any Adam Sandler movie, you pretty much know what you’re going to get.
Warning: Spoilers follow!
Be advised that Sandy Wexler currently has a 28 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 reviews.
There are currently 335 user reviews on Netflix for Sandy Wexler (which you can only find by logging in on a computer), and the response is definitely mixed, including a lot of harsh criticism.
Yet, the Netflix audience seems to enjoy Sandler content, which explains the streaming service’s exclusive deal with the actor/comedian’s Happy Madison Productions extending to eight films, Sandy Wexler being the third. The first two, The Ridiculous 6 and The Do-Over, both of which many critics panned, are supposedly among the most-watched Netflix features ever. Whether Netflix users like what they see after pushing the play button is another matter. That said, Netflix is aggressively transitioning from a video library into an original content creator, and Adam Sandler is obviously a big part of that effort.
The Guardian summarizes the premise of Sandy Wexler, directed by Steven Brill and co-written by Sandler, which takes place mostly in mid-1990s Hollywood and is rated TV-14 (some material unsuitable for those under age 14).
“Intended as a homage to Sandler’s longtime manager Sandy Wernick, the comedy charts the rise of a hapless but dedicated Hollywood manager, who finds success late in his career when he stumbles upon a talented singer.”
A Guardian reviewer separately wrote, “I would never go so far as to call Sandy Wexler a good movie, but it is a unique one, and strangely likable.”
The singer is played by Jennifer Hudson, who delivers a strong performance. The Hollywood Reporter doubts that the premise is believable, however.
“And the idea that any character played by Jennifer Hudson — who deserves another Academy Award for the commitment she brings to her role — would give this moronic cretin the time of day is about the only amusing thing in the whole misbegotten enterprise. As with almost every Sandler vehicle, this is an adoring ode to a lifelong man-baby who mistakes his half-assed excretions for art.”
Parenthetically, there also seems to be law that in virtually every comedy the main character must win the love of the other main character at the end with an elaborate stunt under a time-limit scenario. Sandy Wexler is no different.
Whether intended or not, Sandy Wexler is derivative of a far funnier and much shorter 1984 Woody Allen vehicle called Broadway Danny Rose about a failed, heart-of-gold NYC-based talent agent with a similar roster of ne’er do well or quirky clients. In the film, Danny Rose (played by Allen) gets dragged into a misadventure with a Mafia mistress (played by ex-wife Mia Farrow).
Both films begin with a sequence at a restaurant of some kind (in Allen’s movie, the iconic and now-closed Carnegie Deli), where actors reminisce about the title character, thereby launching the main storyline through flashbacks. Broadway Danny Rose is also a film about betrayal, but both end on a sentimental, life-affirming note.
Sandy Wexler is loaded with cameos by show-business luminaries and Sandler’s comedian pals (Sandler is known for his loyalty to his colleagues in that regard), as well as roles for his real-life wife and daughters, plus Sandy Wernick himself.
For pro wrestling fans, there is a grappling sequence with a Wexler client named Bedtime Bobby Barnes (Terry Crews) fighting an opponent played by WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi. There’s also what appears to be a Boston Market product placement for good measure.
The movie also depicts the Wexler character — who some say comes off as a Jerry Lewis bit — making some satirically misguided predictions (based on what we know now) about the future, such as Blockbuster Video will be around for the long haul. A few O.J. Simpson jokes — made more timely by this week’s events — find their way into the script for better or worse.
Some of the gags are run into the ground. In one, a sound engineer forgets to press the record button (which does happen, as anyone who has been involved even tangentially in the music or TV industry, etc., knows), but you can see the irritating blunder coming from a mile away. The Wexler heart attack scene during a contract negotiation on behalf of a ventriloquist client played by Kevin James is kind of creepy and funny at the same time. The tedious Beavis and Butt-Head sequence as the credits roll would have been better replaced by outtakes.
“For every remotely clever scene…there are three more that stretch on for eternity,” IndieWire observed.
It’s also an open question as to whether internet technology was advanced enough in the mid-1990s to enable video streaming (by Sandy Wexler’s mysterious landlord) from halfway around the world.
Takeaway: Sandy Wexler is less slapstick that the typical, often cheesy, Sandler-esque fare, but probably runs about 30 minutes too long. If a letter grade helps, Sandy Wexler gets a B-.
If you’ve watched Adam Sandler in Sandy Wexler on Netflix, sound off below with your evaluation.
[Featured Image by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP Images]