Back in the early 1990s, Adam Sandler was one of Saturday Night Live’s most popular stars. With characters like Opera Man and Canteen Boy, the funnyman made an impression week after week. But when he was fired from the show in 1995, Sandler’s stardom hit a whole new level.
That very same year, Billy Madison hit theaters, and the film quickly became a cult favorite, followed by Happy Gilmore in 1996. By the late 1990s, Sandler was one of the biggest comedy stars in the business. Yet, despite his financial success, the actor’s work has definitely not been beloved by everyone.
Adam Sandler’s divisive filmography
Starting with his mid-1990s hits, Sandler’s comic persona persisted throughout much of his work. He often plays an immature man-child with an obnoxious streak. While his loyal fans have mostly — sorry, Little Nicky — stood by him, Sandler has also faced intense criticism for his comedies.
The very same broad elements fans love have driven many away from Sandler’s films. The actor’s physical humor, his sing-songy high-pitched voice, and regular appearances by stars like Rob Schneider and Kevin James are among his film’s biggest criticisms. But even Sandler’s core fan base seemed to turn on him in the early 2010s.
The back-to-back release of Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy solidified his box office downturn. The latter film was a huge bomb, earning just $58 million worldwide against a $70 million production budget. Just a few years later, Sandler struck a deal with Netflix, where he’s released several heavily-watched, critically loathed comedies.
It’s all riding on ‘Uncut Gems’
Yet, even though Sandler’s comedies are often subject to derision, the actor’s career isn’t completely devoid of praise. The former SNL cast member got tons of love for his performance as a lonely man struggling with social anxiety in 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love. More recently, Sandler’s work in the 2017 film The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) drew a similarly warm response.
Now Sandler is once again getting attention — and potential awards consideration — for his turn as a compulsive gambler in his new thriller, Uncut Gems. After missing out on an Oscar nomination in the past, Sandler apparently has a backup plan if he is overlooked yet again.
“If I don’t get [an Oscar], I’m going to f**king come back and do [a movie] again that is so bad on purpose just to make you all pay. That’s how I get them,” Sandler jokingly said during a recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show.
Considering how many already dislike his films, we can only imagine what Sandler could make if actively out for revenge. To be fair, we can understand his frustration for never getting the attention many — including his haters — feel he deserved for films like Punch-Drunk Love.
However, the disparity between these highlights and his divisive comedies still makes this threat feel particularly self-aware of the actor.
Can Adam Sandler win an Oscar?
Unfortunately, the chances of Sandler actually breaking into the Oscar race for Best Actor are slim to none. In a very crowded year, Joaquin Phoenix, Adam Driver, Robert De Niro, Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others are all vying for the five available slots. Certainly, Sandler’s work in Uncut Gems is in the conversation but likely not enough to best the competition.
Uncut Gems is earning rapturous reviews, especially for Sandler’s performance. Then again, so did Good Time, the previous film directed by Benny and Josh Safdie. Both movies just don’t fit the profile of traditional Oscar fare, and Sandler’s comedic leanings further complicate his odds.
That said, moviegoers and critics who typically avoid Sandler’s comedies might want to be extra vigilant. If Sandler stays true to his word, his next Netflix comedy could double-down on what people dislike about his movies. As far as passive-aggressive acts go, we’d have to give Sandler props if he actually goes through with it.
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