Tom Jolliffe delves into two guilty pleasures with a double dose of classic era Adam Sandler…
We’ve all got guilty pleasures. Whether it’s music, TV, or film, some things just bring with them a general air of derision (despite their awesomeness). I mean in music terms, why does Phil Collins get a bad rap, when he’s done so many great works? In film terms, the 90’s was awash with a new wave of comedians delivering a vast array of comedies. Some films were more iconic than others. The decade began with Wayne’s World and Bill and Ted taking the world by storm somewhat. You could all admit to liking them. Then there were the eras comedies (and certain stars) which were a little more divisive. Maybe I grew up at the right time. I was at the age where laughing at the kind of humour popularised by Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade and Pauly Shore was kind of expected. Those films are loaded with gags that your inner 12 year old will find hilarious. If you happened to be 12 when they came out, then all the better. See also Ace Ventura.
To an extent a film like Ace Ventura, which has had a particularly critical eye laid upon it in retrospect (not least for gags deemed transphobic), inherently becomes a guilty pleasure now, because much of the film is stuck back in an era where comedy was far less PC (in fact the film was deemed problematic enough at the time of release). Adam Sandler certainly has his fair share of selections for films that might be deemed very problematic in today’s world. Waterboy as an example. That being said, once you become an adult, and indeed a film critic as I have done, there’s an underlying sense (and expectation) that a Sandler comedy (past, present or future) is more likely to induce (or deserve) scorn than praise. We’ve of course seen directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and the Safdie’s flip expectations on their head for a Sandler film and deliver exceptional work (which brought exceptional things in turn out of Sandler). Still, whilst subtlety isn’t too evident in Sandler’s classic comedy, I do have a soft spot for a few of his 90’s gems.
Firstly there’s Happy Gilmore. I wouldn’t ever claim it to be the finest comedy ever made, or brimming with wit (often opting for very broad humour, lower of brow) but dagnabbit if it ain’t still hilarious. I rewatched it again recently and still find the film effortlessly entertaining. This era also saw Billy Madison, which was another I enjoyed, but of the two, Happy Gilmore was my favourite. Sandler is an aspiring Hockey thug who can’t make the grade due to his inability to skate or do anything with much skill besides hitting. He suddenly acquires a great skill for hitting a golf ball an exceptional distance. He also, simultaneously, needs to raise a large amount of cash to pay his grandmas debts and stop her from being made homeless. So with nods back to a Rodney Dangerfield classic in Caddyshack (having already re-spun Back To School into Billy Madison), Sandler plays Gilmore, who finds himself thrust onto the upmarket golf circuit, and lowering the tone. Soon fans of Gilmore, all oddballs and blue collars stiffs flock to the tournaments, bringing doing the usual decorum from the middle class spectators. This is much to the chagrin of seasoned pro and arrogant douchebag, Shooter McGavin.
From knockabout prat falls and physical gags, to a fist fight with Bob Barker, Happy Gilmore is a rapid fire gag show and all thoroughly silly, but it’s great fun. Sandler always worked best comedically when he was more endearing and he gets that balance right here. In holding up to 2020, it’s largely safe too, with nothing that’s likely to get it stricken from listings. Sandler plays the film with a persistent half smirk, as if he’s amused at his own gags, but that kind of adds to the charm. Christopher McDonald is hilarious as McGavin, whilst Carl Weathers revels in playing a former golf pro who lost a hand to a fiendish course lake crocodile (and the introduction to his artificial hand is a great sight gag). Elsewhere, Ben Stiller is hilarious as an evil nurse at the old peoples home Gilmore’s grandma has to stay in.
A few years after Gilmore, Sandler would make one of his most defining comedies. It still marks his best comedy too. The Wedding Singer is perhaps less a guilty pleasure, but even so, some may not freely admit to like the paint by numbers rom-com elements of the film, even if those are interspersed with outlandish comedy and nostalgia tinged humour (Sandler has a cohort who dresses up like Michael Jackson, complete with single glove).
The Wedding Singer is crammed with charm and lots of enjoyable humour. A few gags here and there (fat gags) have probably worn thin in the modern climate, but on the whole the gags are broad enough to be ‘safe.’ Sandler, as a really accomplished and romantic minded wedding singer, who can salvage a wedding from its own guests (an opening cameo from Steve Buscemi is great) is a perfect fit, as is the breakdown he suffers after being dumped at the altar himself. The Wedding Singer plays off a good chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore (which they’ve gone back to a couple of times since, but never as engagingly). The supporting cast including Christine Taylor, Jon Lovitz, Alexis Arquette (As an androgynous combo of Boy George and Pete Burns) and Matthew Glave relishing the role of a total sleazeball, are all great. Additionally, you cannot fail to enjoy the soundtrack here, all songs of the 80’s setting of the film. It’s a great selection of hits that are sure to get your toes tapping.
What are your favourite guilty pleasures? What do you think of The Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmore? Let us know your thoughts on our social channels @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), War of The Worlds: The Attack and the star studded action films, Renegades (Lee Majors, Billy Murray) and Crackdown. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.