Do you remember teachers saying the class had "given itself away" and proven that it could behave well after there was a brief period of quiet focus?
I feel the same about Adam Sandler. I was writing about actors who dramatically underachieve the other day and left out a major offender.
Adam Sandler is a massive underachiever.
If Sandler just appeared in a string of dumbed down, borderline offensive and illiterate "comedies" he could just be dismissed as a box-office-pandering hack. But, he starred in Punch-Drunk Love. He "gave himself away" as a talented actor with an interesting and subtle range. You could probably argue that Spanglish and Funny People did the same, but not in such dramatic fashion.
In those films, Sandler proved he had genuine talent. He proved he wasn't just interested in appealing to the fattest part of the bell curve. He proved that under that candy shell carapace was a man capable of great things.
But that is just three films in a sea of Click, Jack & Jill and Bedtime Stories. Beige, vanilla, boring multiplex comedies that are very crummy.
I sense a cynicism at play in the films he chooses to make. Other underachievers like Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy occasionally try to make a decent film, but Sandler seems unconcerned with quality and more concerned with the wallets of middle America.
I anticipate that people in the comments section will try to sing the praises of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, or some other mediocre "comedy" he has inflicted upon us. But, ask yourself this question, would you take a Sandler film with you if you were stuck on a desert island? Would you show an alien race a Sandler movie as an example of what humans are capable of and why we shouldn't be vaporised by ray guns? Look into your heart - the answer is no.
So, here is Sandler's graph. This is his career mapped in Metacritic ratings. It includes every film he has been involved in as either actor, writer or producer. The blue line is his Metacritic percentage rating:
That peak in the middle is Punch-Drunk Love. Every other film is under the 60 per cent line, with quite a few dipping below the deadly 20 per cent line.
If you compare this graph to other underachievers, it is surprisingly consistent. There is a straight line running at about 40 per cent for the length of Sandler's career. Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy had very erratic graphs - with great and bad brushing shoulders and a line that looked like an ECG.
But Sandler is consistently bland with just one good movie sticking out of his graph like a spire.
Sandler is the McDonald's of movie comedy. You always know what you're going to get, it's vaguely comforting and you feel slightly ashamed afterwards. He's crap, but at least he's consistently crap.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Sandler? Is Punch-Drunk Love his best film? Of course it is.