The Internet, Adam Sandler and Forgetting

I write to fix wrongs.

Today Netflix released the following teaser trailer:

I love it. It looks like a solid basketball movie with Adam Sandler and I cannot wait to watch it. I went to share the trailer on social media and immediately found no reason to do so. Everyone was already talking about the movie. In particular they were talking about how Adam Sandler is a pretty good actor and “Hey look! He’s doing a serious role.” Which is weird.

It’s weird because he received a lot of attention and praise for Uncut Gems, which was not that long ago, but more so because this happens every time he plays a serious role. The Internet, it would appear, has a forgetting problem.

To rectify this I have decided to make a list of Adam Sandler performances that I like and think qualify as “dramatic”. I am doing the quotes thing on that because some of this is surely subjective and I am a coward.


The Wedding Singer

By far the most iffy “dramatic” role in my list, I have chosen to begin with the wedding singer. Here’s what I can say, there are many funny parts to this movie. I feel, ultimately, that it is at least equal parts drama and that Adam Sandler gives a solid performance. Drew Barrymore is wonderful (as always) and despite not seeing this since it came out (1998) I can remember quite a bit about the film. Remember this Internet!

Punch Drunk Love

I think this is the first dramatic role that people noticed. I chose the Criterion Collection poster to emphasize how well regarded this film is now despite its poor initial reception. When I saw this movie I was devastated afterwards – which I realize was probably not most people’s response to the film. I found the character to be so emotionally crippled and unhappy yet unable to bring about change in his life and it touched me deeply. I think it’s a great performance and hopefully the goldfish that is the Internet will do better remembering it.


I feel like Spanglish is a truly forgotten film (I want to start a series about this). Directed by James L. Brooks, starring Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Thomas Haden Church and Cloris Leachman it is a solid, wonderful film. This was not long after several remakes of films like Eat Drink Man Woman and I know when I saw the title I suspected this would be another lackluster version of a non-English speaking film.

Thankfully it isn’t. Adam Sandler gives an understated performance as a chef struggling to make his home-life and business work. So many of the typical pitfalls and traps of this type of film are avoided and instead we are given a film for grown ups. It’s warm, it’s touching and absolutely deserving of being remembered.

Reign Over Me

Three years later Adam Sandler starred in Reign Over Me opposite Don Cheadle. It is a spectacular film with another amazing cast. It is very much a movie for “grown ups”. Mr. Sandler plays a widower who has retreated from life. He reconnects with an old friend, Mr. Cheadle, and then everything goes wrong (or right, it’s messy).

It’s an interesting film about grief and how to help others deal with it. I certainly had not seen this movie before. It’s also interesting because it is clearly a two-handed film – both leads are doing the heavy lifting and Mr. Sandler keeps up with Mr. Cheadle which is impressive.

Funny People

A film written and directed by Judd Apatow, starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen is largely dramatic. I know, weird. I am sure this is part of the reason why it was not as successful as earlier films made by either Mr. Apatow or Mr. Sandler.

The funny bits of the movie are given to the side characters, played by Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman (and even Eric Bana). It’s an interesting film in terms of the Adam Sandler performance. This certainly feels like a road-not-taken, could-have-been-Mr. Sandler’s-life kind of film. So it is interesting to see him play the successful, but personally unfulfilled movie star opposite of the young and naive Seth Rogen. I’m not sure the movie fully works but it qualifies in terms of being a dramatic role and a solid performance from Mr. Sandler.

I’d also like to point out that I think it has been largely forgotten, which is the purpose of this post after all. Given that all of the people in this movie have continued working and are successful that just further reinforces my point that people on the Internet have no memory.

Films I Am Excluding Because I Have Not Seen Them

I agree, this is odd. Look, my viewing habits changed once I had kids and these movies came out after I had little people in my life. I can’t see them all!

Of these four titles only one is questionable in terms of being a dramatic performance. I think, and I am telling you I have not seen these, that Blended does have some dramatic aspects to the role.

The other three are quite obviously more serious which you can tell by their posters (I kid and yet…look at them! Men Women and Children just screams “I am an important indie film!’). The trailer for The Cobbler had me wanting to see it but as of yet I have not. So whether I am correct about Blended or not we have three more dramatic roles from Mr. Sandler to add to the list. Heed my words.

Uncut Gems

We conclude with the most recent and possibly best known dramatic performance of Mr. Sandler’s career. It’s a good film, I am pleased that it received so much attention and that so many people claimed to see it.

To conclude: stop it. In the past twenty years Adam Sandler has done a dramatic role every four years (or less). He’s good. We know this. Let us remember this and get excited each time a new role is announced.

Author: John Ryan Sullivan

I am a writer and filmmaker.

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