Pixels and the Sandler Scale of Awfulness

When I was a kid, my parents got divorced. No big deal, right? It happens to a lot of families. Mommies and daddies love each other for a while, and then they’re whipping glass ashtrays at each other.

That’s how it goes.

Anyway, after it all, they agreed to split custody. So, once every two weeks, we’d go up to dad’s house, and hang out. We almost always stopped at the video store on our way up there.

“Happy Gilmore” was our go-to. I have two sisters and a brother. It was rare that we all agreed to a movie, but there was never a problem with Happy. We all love that movie. So much so, that you can start it at any point, in front of any of the four of us, and we’ll be able to jump in with every character’s lines. From Shooter McGavin and Virgina Venit, all the way to Happy, Chubbs Peterson, Mr. Larson, and Bob Barker.

We know ’em all.

For that reason (my love of HG), I always found it very hard to jump on the “let’s all hate Adam Sandler” bandwagon. Then he made “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.” That was the first time that I had absolutely no chance of defending him. If somebody told me that movie sucked, what was I going to do? Say that person was wrong? Because they weren’t.

“You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” is a pretty horrendous film. I went out of my way to watch it, and everything. I didn’t know what it felt like to hate an Adam Sandler movie before that. Some of the stuff that came before it wasn’t amazing (Chuck & Larry), but even that one was enjoyable. Zohan made me squirm, it was so rough. I just fidgeted around my chair, wondering what happened.

How did that movie end up so shitty? Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel co-wrote it with him!

NOTE: Robert Smigel, for those who don’t know, is the man behind the puppet for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

I assumed Zohan would be the worst that it ever got. Surely, Sandler would learn his lesson from that turd, and not churn out anymore tightly coiled piles of dog doodoo – right? RIGHT?!?!?

WRONG!!

If I were going to be harsh, I’d pick his next movie, “Bedtime Stories,” but that was a kids movie, through and through. The obvious choice here is “Jack and Jill.” What a monstrous piece of crap. I really want to know how that pitch went down.

“All right, strap in, because you’re about to have your mind blown. This one is called Jack & Jill. Adam’s gonna play Jack….and Jill.”

“Sold! Here’s a 79 million dollar budget.”

Yeah, that’s right – that movie had a 79 million dollar budget.

Wait! Before J&J, Sandler made “Grown Ups.” I need to get this out of the way – I don’t count that movie, or the second one. They’re barely movies. They’re mostly just excuses for him and his friends to go on paid vacations, and truth be told – I respect it. As they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

All right, let’s finally move onto “Pixels.”

Before I start, here are a bunch of pull quotes that I snagged from Rotten Tomatoes:

“It’s the cinematic equivalent of receiving a supermarket brand deodorant gift set on Christmas morning: you don’t want it, you’ll never use it, and frankly, it stinks.” – Chris Blohm

“At many times throughout this film, you’d rather be watching someone play a 106-minute game of Pong.” – Ben Rawson-Jones

“Adam Sandler imagines himself as the savior of the planet. And then it gets even more puffed up with arrogance and all manner of masturbatory fantasy.” – MaryAnn Johanson

“I felt a wave of nostalgia when I saw the trailer for Pixels a few months ago. After viewing the finished product, I am here to report that Pixels is legitimately awful. Like, in-your-face awful.” – Andy Herren

That third one is absolutely ridiculous. Somewhere along the line, it became okay to dump on Adam Sandler in the meanest way possible. It’s fair enough, given that his career seems bulletproof, at this point. However, if you ask me, it’s lazy as hell.

Let’s start with the top quote. Without a doubt, that was Chris Blohm trying to hop on that bandwagon, and get his website some coverage with a funny quote about the flick. Hey, it worked. I’m here, writing about him. Even wrote his name more than once. I won’t hotlink to his website, though. I refuse to give any of them more hits on their lazy reviews.

Especially now that I have seen “Pixels” for myself. It is not legitimately awful, nor is it an arrogant, masturbatory fantasy. It’s a fucking movie about aliens invading earth, in the form of 1980’s video game characters. Could there have been some more character work? Yeah, of course. Most movies could use that, not just Adam Sandler’s.

With that said, it wasn’t this abomination that people made it out to be.

It may have helped that all these reviews shot my expectations to below zero, but even then, it really wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong, it had all the trappings of a typical Sandler movie, but it also had Josh Gad, Sean Bean, Dan Akroyd, Brian Cox, Peter Dinklage, and Michelle Monaghan to even that stuff out. He didn’t cart out David Spade, or Rob Schneider for this. Kevin James, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson, and Jonathan Loughran are the furthest he dipped into his usual circle of friends. I like all of those dudes, and besides, other than James, they all had small roles.

Let me cut to the chase, and wrap all this up – I think that there is a Sandler Scale of Awfulness.

It goes from “Happy Gilmore,” which is not awful at all, all the way to “Jack and Jill,” which, as we covered, is beyond awful. “Pixels” belongs somewhere in the middle, more towards the bottom, but still near the middle.

It’s not J&J or Zohan bad, but it’s not HG good, either. The problem is that Sandler has had a stretch of sub-par comedies recently. He’s dealing with the same shit that Ben Affleck had to, after making “Daredevil,” “Jersey Girl,” “Gigli,” “Paycheck,” and “Surviving Christmas,” all back to back. When you develop that sort of track record for awfulness, people forget about the good times, or they ignore them when they come along (“The Cobbler,” “Men, Women, and Children,” and “Top Five” – which featured Sandler as himself, and he was hilarious).

It’s really annoying to see, because in Adam’s case, they’re forgetting about some real gold:

Happy Gilmore
Big Daddy
Billy Madison
Funny People
Click
Reign Over Me
50 First Dates
The Longest Yard
Anger Management
Airheads
The Wedding Singer
Eight Crazy Nights (FIGHT ME, I LOVE THAT MOVIE)
The Waterboy
Bulletproof

Those are 14 certified bangers right there. If you don’t like a few of them, I can deal with that. People are entitled to their opinions. If you don’t like all of them, it’s because you have an irrational hatred for Adam Sandler, and as such, we can never be friends.

Now – to finish off, I leave you with this gem:

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Joseph Finnegan
finnegan.joseph@yahoo.com