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You Can Do It!: A Look at Adam Sandler’s Epic 20-Year Run

August 11, 2016

While researching Adam Sandler’s Netflix deal for our recently released podcast I had an interesting revelation. Adam Sandler has owned the last 20 years. His films may be hated by critics (fair enough) but they never stop making money. He has found a way to adapt and stay relevant in a day and age of superheroes and more superheroes. The recent reports about the demise of his career after Pixels flopped have proven to be false, and as we head into 2017 Adam Sandler has broken all of Netflix’s records and his last five theatrically released films have collected $1,350,000,000 at the worldwide box office.

I’m not speaking for the quality of his films. If I was talking about who has made the best films of the last 20 years his name wouldn’t be in the top 100. What I’m trying to get at it is nobody has done what he’s done in the last 20 years. The guy has done zero press since 1996 and has proven that flops don’t mean the end of a career. For example, He was on the ropes in 2013 after Jack & Jill and That’s My Boy, so he went back to sequel land with the massively popular Grown Ups 2. The popular movie made $247 million at the international box office (good press) and was so disliked (7% RT) the hosts of a podcast called The Worst Idea Ever watched it 52 times and podcasted about it each week (more press).  Sandler films are like the NCIS of cinema. They are massive hits, spin-off into different worlds and are always watched because they is something comfortable about them.

John Turturro kills it in Sandler movies.

The following piece isn’t meant to be controversial or unrealistic. I genuinely think that Adam Sandler has been the cinematic king of the last 20 years because he has remained a box office draw while avoiding comic book franchises and actual good movies (there are a few exceptions). Other actors have made more money, worked with great directors, won more Oscars and collected more critical accolades. However, nobody has managed to collect $3,776,934,763 at the domestic box office by making movies that feature Dave Matthews picking up a coconut with his butt. No other actor on the planet could make a movie about an undercover commando/hairdresser and make over $200 million worldwide.

John Turturro is the best.

Here are the films that make up the “Sandler” catalog. All of them feature Sandler and his cohorts engaging in mostly PG-13 shenanigans.

Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Eight Crazy Nights, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups, Just Go With It, Jack & Jill, That’s My Boy, Hotel Transylvania, Grown Ups 2, Blended, Pixels and Hotel Transylvania 2. 

These 24 films have averaged $157,372,381 at the domestic box office (accounting for inflation) while being directed by non-household names like Steven Brill, Frank Boraci and Dennis Dugan. It is insane to think this collection of films with an average Rotten Tomatoes critical average of 31.9% have done so well. Also, there have been ebbs and flows but box office numbers have remained steady over the last 20 years.

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Sandler has one of the most loyal fan bases on the planet and they’ve stuck by him through thick and thin (even when he confuses them with Punch Drunk Love). He can literally make movies about four dudes hanging out (Grown Ups 1 & 2) and they make over $500 million worldwide. His international audience is growing and according to Netflix statistics the film Blended is loved in South America (random). I still watch every Sandler film because there is something magnetic about them. Jack and Jill may be a terrible film, but it features Al Pacino singing about Dunkaccinos.

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He has made other films in the last 20 years. The majority of the good ones haven’t been “Sandler” films. He worked with Paul Thomas Anderson on Punch Drunk Love and Judd Apatow on Funny People. These directors worked his acting style into their films and it worked brilliantly.  On top of his successful acting forays he has produced some hits (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo), cult comedies (Grandma’s Boy, Joe Dirt, House Bunny) and outright atrocities (Deuce Bigelow 2, Bench Warmers). The guy has been everywhere and has built a Sandler Cinematic Universe that is highly forgiving of his occasional attempts at real acting.

What I love about his exclusive four picture Netflix deal is that he’s become an early adopter and doesn’t have to worry about critics. Wired published an article entitled “Netflix is using Adam Sandler To Beat Hollywood And Rule The World” that chronicles Netlfix’s wise decision. The title statement isn’t hyperbole because Sandler is a bona-fide worldwide star and “any Sandler movie from the last 20 years immediately make the top 10 in any country when Netflix makes it available.”  His first Netflix film The Ridiculous 6 has a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score but it is the most watched film in Netflix history. An added bonus is the Netflix deal makes it easier for people to hate-watch his films and share their dislike online. I understand the dislike, but all the press just makes more people want to watch the “trainwrecks.” His movies are press machines because a lot of online writers want to write about why his movies are terrible. The problem is the majority of his fans don’t care and will watch regardless of the films coherence.

Adam Sandler’s 20 year reign isn’t going to stop anytime soon. He has two films left on his Netflix deal, and he just wrapped up work on the Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha) directed Yeh Din Ka Kissa. Hotel Transylvania 3 will make another $400 million worldwide and whatever else he makes after the Netflix deal will certainly make its money back. Who would’ve thought the guy from Billy Madison would have such a great run.

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