For years now Adam Sandler has been appointed as Hollywood’s funny man. He’s seen off rivals such as Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Seth Rogen to claim this prestigious award. But is it an accolade that is well deserved for Sandler? The fresh faced actor came to prominence in such roles as The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, all entirely respectable goofball comedies if that’s the kind of low brow comedy you’re into.
Then arrived the big breakthrough. The year was 1999 and the film was called Big Daddy. Sandler plays a law school graduate who adopts a young boy in order to impress his girlfriend. Compared to what was to come, Big Daddy is hilarious; Sandler convincingly pulls off the role of unwilling father figure who adapts to life as a foster father. Big Daddy could be considered the pinnacle of Sandler’s career, were it not for the exception of the fascinating Punch-Drunk Love, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Punch-Drunk Love sees Sandler in unfamiliar territory and remains one of his, if not the only, most criminally under-rated roles to date. The plot of the film is somewhat ambiguous, but Sandler plays a salesman whose life is thrown into turmoil when he phones a sex line and she tries to extort money from him. There are comedic moments during the film, such as the initial conversation between Sandler and the call girl, but make no mistake, this film is as dark as it gets for Sandler.
If Punch-Drunk Love was intended to be the springboard for financial success, then you can consider it a job well done. If it was intended to create a new persona for Sandler, who would then enter into many more serious roles, think again. The film that followed was Mr. Deeds, and catapulted Sandler back into familiar territory. Despite the financial success Mr. Deeds brought Sandler, the film did as much as it could to destroy the ounce of credibility Mr. Sandler had gained from Punch-Drunk Love.
Mr. Deeds represented a beginning of the end for Sandler, films such as Click, Anger Management, The Longest Yard and 50 First Dates followed and saw Sandler apparently retire from acting in films of a serious nature. To describe Sandler’s slow decline as a fall from grace would be an overstatement but it is a sad predicament, watching this obviously talented actor refuse to leave his comfort zone. Such actions have since seen Sandler lose every ounce of credibility he gained from achieving a Golden Globe nomination for Punch-Drunk Love so long ago in 2002. We fear the next nomination may be a long way away.