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Comedian, actor, writer and producer - as well as former "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) castmember - Adam Sandler was the man behind a genre of comedy blockbusters so closely associated with his formulaic wackiness that it eventually bore his name: "Adam Sandler movies." At the center of hits like "Billy Madison" (1995) and "The Waterboy" (1998) were Sandler's character creations - hapless, moronic, outsiders entangled in absurdly improbable circumstances. But critics be damned, the adolescent-skewed offerings proved to be box office gold and their creator repeated his success with endless variations on the same formula - including producing similar films starring good friends David Spade and Rob Schneider - before eventually branching out into something more substantial. First parlaying his vulnerable dimwit persona into romantic comedies like "The Wedding Singer" (1998), Sandler began to show subtler, more human shades in other people's works including Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002), for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination, and James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" (2004). With his tried-and-true formula beginning to lose audiences to "smarter" comedies, Sandler teamed with Judd...
Comedian, actor, writer and producer - as well as former "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) castmember - Adam Sandler was the man behind a genre of comedy blockbusters so closely associated with his formulaic wackiness that it eventually bore his name: "Adam Sandler movies." At the center of hits like "Billy Madison" (1995) and "The Waterboy" (1998) were Sandler's character creations - hapless, moronic, outsiders entangled in absurdly improbable circumstances. But critics be damned, the adolescent-skewed offerings proved to be box office gold and their creator repeated his success with endless variations on the same formula - including producing similar films starring good friends David Spade and Rob Schneider - before eventually branching out into something more substantial. First parlaying his vulnerable dimwit persona into romantic comedies like "The Wedding Singer" (1998), Sandler began to show subtler, more human shades in other people's works including Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002), for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination, and James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" (2004). With his tried-and-true formula beginning to lose audiences to "smarter" comedies, Sandler teamed with Judd Apatow for "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" (2008) and "Funny People" (2009), which saw Sandler delving deeper into acting than ever before. The comedian continued his softer direction with "Grown Ups" (2010), a reunion picture with many of his "SNL" buddies, and a warmhearted voiceover turn as a doting Dracula in "Hotel Transylvania" (2012) and its 2015 sequel. At the same time, Sandler continued making plenty of broad comedies such as "Jack and Jill" (2011) and the generation gap comedy "That's My Boy" (2012), before an ill-advised reunion with Drew Barrymore in "Blended" (2014), the critically-savaged science fiction comedy "Pixels" (2015) and a controversial western comedy, "The Ridiculous 6" (2015), threatened to undo all the goodwill he had gathered. However, a subdued performance in Noah Baumbach's "The Meyerowitz Stories" (2017) won critical plaudits at the 2017 Cannes Fiulm Festival, showing that Sandler was still capable of surprising critics and audiences alike. Adam Sandler's formula may have altered a bit through the years, but his heart stayed true to his particular brand of sweet-hearted, goofy comedy.
Born on Sept. 9, 1966, Adam Sandler spent the first six years of his life in Brooklyn, NY, where his mother Judy was a nursery school teacher and his father Stanley was an electrical engineer. The family relocated to a quieter life in Manchester, NH, where budding class clown and musician Sandler found inspiration in classic rock and repeated viewings of the comedy classic "Caddyshack" (1980). Between playing basketball, helming a cover band, and outings to comedy clubs in nearby Boston, MA, Sandler managed to maintain a decent enough grade point average to gain acceptance into New York University. He moved to New York City and worked towards a drama degree while performing at comedy clubs and auditioning for TV roles. His career was off to a start with recurring roles on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) and MTV's irreverent game show "Remote Control" (MTV, 1987-1990), where he introduced his talent for creating memorable comedic characters.
The aspiring comedian left New York for Los Angeles but he did not stay long, as a stand-up set at the famed Improv caught the eye of "Saturday Night Live" alumni Dennis Miller who immediately got "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels on his speed dial. A suitably impressed Michaels hired Sandler as a writer for the series in 1990. Within a year, his cast of off-center dunces like Iraqi Pete, Canteen Boy and Cajun Man made appearances on the show's Weekend Update segment but none caught fire so quickly as Opera Man - a bewigged and caped tenor singing in satirical non sequiturs. Sandler was promoted to repertory player in 1991 and gained even more popularity with his parody songs including "Lunchlady Land" and "The Thanksgiving Song," which appeared on his double platinum-selling 1993 debut comedy album They're All Gonna Laugh at You. Entering into the film arena, Sandler had a supporting role in Bobcat Goldthwait's uneven cult comedy "Shakes the Clown" (1992) before co-starring in another fringe favorite, "Airheads" (1994), where he was spot-on as a member of a heavy metal band who inadvertently hijacks a radio station to secure airplay for their self-produced demo.
By the time Sandler finished out the year in the ensemble of Nora Ephron's holiday downer "Mixed Nuts" (1994), his film career had squeezed out his TV career and he bid "SNL" - as well as good buddies and office mates David Spade, Chris Rock and Chris Farley - farewell. The era of the "Adam Sandler movie" was born, and Sandler began creating, writing and starring in a string of vehicles that hinged on variations of the "dimwitted protagonist navigates an absurd premise" storyline. The first such offering was "Billy Madison" (1995), in which Sandler, the scion of a wealthy family, tries to prove that he is worthy of taking over the family business by attending grades 1-12. Critically panned but a huge commercial success among the crucial male teen audience, Sandler followed up with the similarly structured golfing comedy "Happy Gilmore" (1996), which took in more than $40 million. "Bulletproof" (1996), which teamed him with Damon Wayans, opened at number one, and the same year Sandler released another double platinum selling album, What the Hell Happened to Me? which contained the new holiday classic, "The Chanukah Song." The only blot on his happiness came when he lost in quick succession two of his "SNL" contemporaries - first, good buddy Chris Farley to a drug overdose in December 1997, followed five months later with the domestic murder the castmember Sandler had most looked up to, Phil Hartman, in May 1998.
Continuing his cinematic hot streak, "The Wedding Singer" (1998) marked the mullet-sporting Sandler's entry into the formulaic romantic comedy, grossing $80 million and bringing women into the ranks of a previously male fan base, thanks to a charming romantic storyline with Drew Barrymore. To the chagrin of many comedy purists, Sandler further milked the "hapless outsider" genre, starring the same year in "The Waterboy" (1998), with its $39 million opening weekend flying in the face of conventional wisdom that moviegoers prefer more serious fare in the fall. His formula for success now firmly established, Sandler founded Happy Madison productions and began planning to put to work fellow "SNL" alumnus and friends in big screen comedies. The first feature under the Happy Madison banner was buddy Rob Schneider's 1999 brain child "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" which was certainly in keeping with Sandler's track record and genre. Sandler was back in front of the camera in "Big Daddy" (1999), playing a slacker who adopts a boy to win back his girlfriend. The film had more heart than his usual outings, and while it was not as overwhelmingly successful, it did register as another solid hit for the actor-turned-producer. He took on his first starring and producing role with the cringe-worthy comedy "Little Nicky" in 2000 and earned his first Grammy nomination for his 1999 comedy album Stan and Judy's Kid, before producing David Spade's "Joe Dirt" (2001) and Schneider's "The Animal" (2001).
A 2002 remake of Frank Capra's classic rags-to-riches tale "Mr. Deeds" (2002) found Sandler reining in the absurdity somewhat, but still watched the film earn over $125 million dollars in ticket sales. However his core audience did not turn up for his next outing, Paul Thomas Anderson's critically acclaimed "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002), which premiered at Cannes and took home The Golden Palm Award. Tackling a more mature role in the dramatic comedy created expressly for him by writer-director Anderson, Sandler successfully built upon his harmless sad-sack persona and added darker edges to create a much more true-to-life and sympathetic character, proving again that some of the best dramatic actors are comics. The new dimension impressed art house moviegoers, who turned up in droves as followers of the director, rather than the film's blockbuster star - someone who many walked in expecting to hate. Most walked away duly impressed, as did critics who had lambasted Sandler for the best five years.
The era of the broad, teen-oriented "Adam Sandler movie" steadily retreated into the distance, with Sandler joining Jack Nicholson to portray patient and therapist in the clever David Dorfman comedy "Anger Management" (2003) with Sandler's uptight, rage-repressed everyman serving as the perfect foil for Nicholson's wild-eyed, unshaven and slightly psycho psychotherapist. He reunited with Barrymore for "50 First Dates" (2004), a typically thin romantic comedy that cast Sandler as a man who falls in love with a woman whose lack of a short-term memory forces him to woo her anew every day. The actor was better served in writer-director James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" (2004), playing a chef grappling with an out-of-control wife (Tea Leoni) and the emotional damage she inflicts on their daughter, even as he is attracted to the beautiful and sensitive maid who does not speak a lick of English (Paz Vega). The film's serio-comic tone did not work for everyone, but Roger Ebert summed up the opinion of most critics when he said that he liked Adam Sandler most when he was not in typical "Adam Sandler movies."
A remake of the prison football comedy "The Longest Yard" (2005) - with Sandler in the Burt Reynolds role of a jailed NFL quarterback leading a team of inmates against their guards - was a half-step backward, and though it lacked much of the original's charm and edge, it proved popular at the box office. In "Click" (2006), he was back to playing a misunderstood everyman who stumbles onto a device that allows him to rewind, fast-forward and pause his life at will. Critics were fairly merciless about the film's debt to "It's a Wonderful Life" and other superior explorations of the film's theme, but audiences flocked to the tune of over $200 million dollars. Taking another sojourn into the dramatic arena, Sandler played a dentist coping with the loss of his family on September 11th in "Reign Over Me" (2007). Again critics and audiences disagreed, and the well-received film made a paltry box office showing - audiences wanted the silly, senseless Sandler; the same Sandler who had beaten Bob Barker with a golf club and declared "The price is wrong, bitch!" Sandler made a financial rebound to somewhat familiar territory with "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (2007), starring as a heterosexual firefighter who feigns marriage with another fireman (Kevin James) to qualify for the department's domestic partner benefits.
In 2008, Sandler joined forces with Judd Apatow (in writer mode) for "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," an unlikely pairing that brought the mastermind behind real-life based comedies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) into Sandler's preposterous premise land. This time, Sandler starred as an Israeli intelligence officer who fakes his own death to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a hairstylist in New York City. The film was not as strongly received as Sandler's Disney family movie, "Bedtime Stories" (2008), but Apatow signed him on for a starring role as a possibly dying stand-up comedian for "Funny People" (2009). Although the script gave Sandler one of his most demanding acting roles up to that point, the film itself did mediocre box office compared to Apatow's previous smashes. Embracing all the sides of his career, Sandler moved on to the good-natured "Grown Ups" (2010), reuniting with old "SNL" pals David Spade, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider, as well as "Chuck and Larry" co-star Kevin James, about a group of friends gathering together to reminisce after the death of their childhood basketball coach. The movie seemed to capture the tone of Sandler and company's lives off camera as well - nostalgic for the earlier days, but looking towards the future with optimism.
Sandler next opted for a number of safe projects that were generally panned by critics but (mostly) financially successful, including "Just Go with It" (2011), a romantic comedy co-starring Jennifer Aniston, and "Jack and Jill" (2011), a movie with the cringe-inducing conceit of the actor playing both the average-Joe lead and his shrill sister. "That's My Boy," which featured Sandler as the irresponsible young dad of Andy Samberg's character, proved to be a rare box-office bomb for the funnyman, but he bounced back as Dracula in the animated hit "Hotel Transylvania" (2012) and with "Grown Ups 2" (2013), which was another smash and, remarkably, the comedian's first-ever sequel. Sandler's third collaboration with Drew Barrymore, "Blended" (2014) did not live up to the box office success of its predecessors, and received poor reviews as well. After appearing as himself in longtime pal Chris Rock's comedy-drama "Top Five" (2014), Sandler went into a more serious direction in Jason Reitman's social media satire "Men, Women and Children" (2014) and the fantasy "The Cobbler" (2014). Chris Columbus' comedy-adventure "Pixels" (2015) reunited Sandler with Kevin James, as well as Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad, in a story of Earth under attack from 1980s video game characters. Sandler next returned to his voice role as Dracula in "Hotel Transylvania 2" (2015). His first film under a multi-picture deal with Netflix, "The Ridiculous 6" (2015), was a broad western comedy that came under fire from Native American actors and activists for its cartoonish portrayal of Indians. After the controversy, two other films in the Netflix deal, action comedy "The Do-Over" (2016) and Hollywood satire "Sandy Wexler" (2017) premiered on the streaming service to little fanfare or backlash. Sandler next collaborated with writer/director Noah Baumbach for the comedy-drama "The Meyerowitz Stories" (2017), which drew critical acclaim for Sandler's subdued, mature performance upon its debut at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
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