Have reports of Adam Sandler's demise been greatly exaggerated? Probably. Despite the bomb-level box office results for "That's My Boy," Sandler is far from over. His mojo is just fine.
Here's why: $149 million, $214 million, $271 million. Those are the global grosses of "Jack and Jill," "Just Go With It" and "Grown Ups," Sandler's last three films prior to "That's My Boy." Additionally, Sandler has watched as "Bedtime Stories" ($212 million), "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" ($199 million), "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" ($186 million), "Click" ($237 million), "The Longest Yard" ($190 million), "50 First Dates" ($196 million), "Anger Management" ($195 million) and "Mr. Deeds" ($171 million) raked in massive returns around the world over the last decade. During that same time frame, his only films to not gross over $149 million worldwide were "Funny People," "Reign Over Me," "Spanglish," "Eight Crazy Nights" and "Punch-Drunk Love."
All of which is to say that Adam Sandler isn't on the downside of his career. If those flops prove anything, however, it's that he also can't stray too far from his box. Like "That's My Boy," "Funny People," "Punch-Drunk Love" and "Reign Over Me" were rated R -- a bridge too far for Sandler's PG-13-conditioned audience. Those latter two films, along with "Spanglish," were also reaches at drama for Sandler, something Happy Madison fans avoid like the plague. Meanwhile, "Eight Crazy Nights" was an animated film -- another out-of-character maneuver for the consistently consistent Sandler. (Judging from the failure of "Eight Crazy Nights," "Hotel Transylvania" -- an upcoming ensemble animated feature with Sandler in a voice role -- could face a similarly rough path to box-office glory.)
Critics like to blast Sandler for his bad films and lazy choices, but when the numbers are this stark, it's hard to argue with his selection process. Sandler has worked with Paul Thomas Anderson and Judd Apatow, and Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Michael Mann all wanted him at one point for roles. But why should Sandler take any creative risks when the audience has proved time and again that it only wants to see him in a very specific (and PG-13) type of film? Even "Jack and Jill," despite $149 million worldwide, was a reach: a PG family comedy that critics obviously hated and that Sandler's core audience perhaps didn't find all that fulfilling. With an additional swear and some partial nudity, perhaps even "Jack and Jill" could have crossed the $200 million global barrier.
Alas, that's all hindsight. "That's My Boy" and "Jack and Jill" represent an ebb on Sandler's resume and his status as an A-lister is on shakier ground than usual. However! You don't need to hold a collection for him just yet: "Grown Ups 2" is due out in theaters next year, meaning audiences will once again get the Sandler movie they want.
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