You have to admire Adam Sandler. You can loathe his movies, and scrawl his name in sand-circles decrying him as the Antichrist – but you simply have to admire him. The man has become an institution unto himself, and his string of absolute shockers have somehow tapped into a demographic so alarmingly large and hungry, that it made his Netflix exclusive The Ridiculous Six – the first of multiple he’s making for the streaming giant – pull in the largest viewing numbers they’ve ever seen. And that’s from a company famously shy about sharing those kind of numbers, so it certainly calls attention to this: Sandler is doing many, many things wrong for critics and film fans everywhere, but for a large swathe of audiences, he’s doing at least as many things right.
There’s a sombre mood when you click ‘play’ on The Do-Over. The racist undertones (and sometimes, frankly, overtones) of The Ridiculous Six and Jack & Jill make you feel somewhat guilty, if not frankly implicit, in the poor handling of these themes. Every time we stream Sandler or buy a ticket to one of his movies, we become enablers. It’s not just the unseen legions of fans doing this; a fair share of his success comes from the morbid curiosity shown in the rest of us. ‘Are the jokes really that bad?’ ‘Is the tone truly as misjudged as everyone says it is?’ There’s only one way to find out – and as such, we arrive at that first hit of ‘play’ on his new movie. A movie which, while vulgar and cheap on most levels, actually manages to continually surprise and even slightly (dare it be said) entertain. There’s merit here, though the source isn’t clear; The Do-Over is somewhat of an outlier from the rest of Sandler’s hack jobs, so it can only be the result of a couple of outliers themselves. Writers Kevin Barnett and Chris Pappas are Happy Madison newbies, and although their credits don’t exactly inspire much (the former wrote the atrocious 2011 comedy Hall Pass), they clearly construct a fast-moving guessing-game of a plot that’s quick to play into genre specifics rather well, if only in a pedestrian way – so therefore it can only be director Steven Brill and the rest of the Sandler Think Tank who knock The Do-Over down from a passable thriller with some successful black humour, to a Grown Ups-level gross-out caper that happens to have thriller elements.
Really, The Do-Over could more realistically be titled The Takeover; that’s precisely what’s happened to this movie, a nice idea that’s been stink-bombed by those who make their living at the bottom of the barrel. Even when there are genuine laughs to be had (via some nifty quick-fire physical comedy, minus the conspicuous CGI work that usually accompanies every visual gag in The Ridiculous Six), each smile comes loaded with hot shame thanks to circumstance: an early scene on a boat seems to have its heart in playing off as nothing more than adolescent, cartoonish humour – not necessarily an inherent fault – but the result is unintended misogyny. Are there actually any more positives? Well, Sandler isn’t quite as smug here, David Spade is somewhat of a minor revelation as a mousy bank manager, and Paula Patton is terrific as always – and shouldn’t be in this.
And so we come to the end of the review for The Do-Over, which has failed entirely to tell you what The Do-Over is about. Why? Because you don’t care what it’s about – none of us do. We’re going to hit ‘play’ regardless.
The Do-Over is available to stream on Netflix. The choice is yours.