'The Week Of': Adam Sandler is father of the snide
I was poised to give Adam Sandler a classic pass with “The Week Of” - you know, the old critical chestnut in which a slipshod screenplay fails a game star. Playing a “Father of the Bride”-type well-meaning doofus, he certainly seems willing to go further than the Sandler cruise-control idiot-manchild exertion-free performances he’s famous for. But the argument blows all four tires upon the realization that Sandler co-scripted this thing, leaving us to ponder why he appears willing to play a character with some depth, but didn’t bother to write one for himself.
The comic is now four movies deep into his Netflix deal, a venue less beholden to the high standards of the theatrical-film format, and yes, I say that with grave acknowledgment of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” films, and the works of Uwe Boll and Michael Bay, and “Geostorm.” Were it under the acute surveillance of the Motion Picture Association of America, “The Week Of” likely would be rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for language, adult juvenilia, moderately racy bachelor-party content and, of course, “thematic material,” including, but not limited to, elder-paraplegic abuse and weiner jokes. But under the Netflix/TV umbrella, it’s rated TV-14, so it’s preserving the well-being of young minds for a year longer than it would otherwise, at least theoretically. Such nobility.
The streaming service has made headlines recently for throwing tens of millions of dollars at original works - “Okja,” Will Smith vehicle “Bright,” an upcoming Martin Scorsese picture - but hasn’t revealed the budget for “The Week Of.” It looks like it was made entirely with nickels and dimes from returnables smuggled over the state line, and Menards in-store rebate vouchers.
The movie is amateurish and cheap from corner to corner, its writing, editing, direction, cinematography and performances appearing effortless in the sense that one theorizes whether any effort was expended at all. While we wonder if a Scorsese film should debut on a small screen - hint: it shouldn’t - there’s no doubt that the recent Sandler efforts absolutely don’t belong in theaters, where viewers are less compelled to doze off, thumb through magazines or Google hemorrhoid treatments during the movie.
And yet, compared to previous Sandler/Netflix productions “The Ridiculous 6” and “The Do-Over,” which were memorable for being brutally tasteless and moronic, “The Week Of” passes like a Midwestern plain on a car trip to the Grand Canyon. It’s broad, flat and uneventful.
Sandler’s character, Kenny Lustig, stubbornly adheres to the custom of paying for his sweet daughter’s (Allison Strong) wedding. He works hard as a second-rate building contractor to provide for his family, a collection of Jewish middle-class Long Island stereotypes - so of course, he’s scraping for bargains on room rentals, settles for a terrible magician for entertainment, and recruits a surly cousin to DJ the reception. The Lustigs are packed into a cramped house whose drywall scars have more character than the people living in it. Of course, the plot convolutes to pile every relative on either side of the aisle into the house until it resembles a hurricane refugee shelter, and oddly, nobody complains.
In the opening scenes, the movie introduces Chris Rock’s father-of-the-groom, Kirby Cordice, as a superstar surgeon and serial womanizer, setting up a culture-clash rivalry between the two principals that would be easy to exploit for dumb laughs if anyone bothered to try. Kirby offers to foot the bill for a nice wedding; Kenny steadfastly refuses; repeat. Kenny insists on booking a “two-diamond” hotel for the reception and to put up the groom’s family, visiting from Los Angeles, prompting an interminable running joke about leaky ceilings culminating in a wedding-party dance sequence set to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and incorporating 40-gallon trash barrels full of water in the choreography. It’s “wacky.”
Exhibit A in the movie’s comedic desperation is Kenny’s Uncle Seymour (Jim Barone), a senile 80-something with no legs and a bald cap so phony, it looks like it was cut from a used swimming-pool liner and rendered Caucasian with an old “flesh”-colored Crayola. He provides opportunities for pants-pooping jokes and crass slapstick, including a scene in which a sleeping Kirby fondles his leg stumps in the middle of a lascivious dream. Seymour barely participated in World War II boot camp, but lacking any other formal wear, dons his uniform, prompting others to brainlessly honor him. The film drags around the corpse of this running gag so mercilessly, it makes the entirety of “Weekend at Bernie’s” look like a crisp one-liner.
Typical for a Sandler production, any attempt at satire is lost in the mean-spirited, point-and-laugh tone, which happens when filmmakers settle for what’s easy instead of bothering to work through the material. Deep into a third act that seemed like it would never arrive and also never leave, Sandler deploys his trademark half-hearted schmaltz, like a delinquent child smiling cute and deflecting Mommy’s ire after he spent all day slashing tires, slinging mud at girls and sticking his thumb up the dog’s butt. I do not recommend this movie.
‘The Week Of’
Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rachel Dratch, Steve Buscemi
Director: Robert Smigel
Run time: 116 minutes