Respect for the Sandman

Growing up, Adam Sandler movies were a banned entity in my house. Crude humor was not abided, so I had to live with friends bragging about forbidden fruit like Big Daddy and Mr. Deeds. But the ruling turned out to be formative. Even when I was able to sneak peeks on television, Sandler’s loud sense of humor wound up never catching on with me. My young peers looked at me with confusion when I admitted my unimpressed opinion of The Waterboy. As I grew up, the luster of trying to get what I couldn’t have ebbed, replaced by a lack of desire to seek out Sandler movies, new or old. Sure, Punch-Drunk-Love and Uncut Gems are fantastic but I assumed them to be the exception, not the rule of Sandman – evolutions of his previous characters now guided by serious directors. A snobby hot take recently corrected by The Wedding Singer.

A surprise evening pick from the girlfriend, who insisted that it would be exactly my thing if I gave it a chance. She was right, so I guess this is as much a piece about reappraising the Sandman as it is about vindication for the girlfriend. I found myself immediately rooting for Sandler, his character shown from early on to be a genuinely nice person, such as when he comforts a sick kid who snuck too much beer at a wedding. As someone with a middling amount of experience with the guitar, I appreciate the effort that goes into being able to perform in front of others. Sandler not only plays but also sings and he does it well as the titular role. While his character works through a breakup of the harshest order, he channels his grief into his music. The first time he does so is at a stranger’s wedding, the smiles of the bride and groom quickly waning as Sandler lets them know his thoughts about true love. The second go around it’s just him and his crush, Drew Barrymore who watches him with bright-eyed joy. The hum of a guitar plugging into an amp and soft palm muted chords give way to unexpected catharsis as Sandler screams it out over waves of reverb. It’s a two-minute long hat trick, being sad, funny, and ultimately a jam. As a local sad man trying his best who also occasionally dabbles in bouts of The Cure, how could I not be won over?

As you watch Sandler play, you can see so much weight in his eyes, looking ready to either burst out laughing or crying. It’s still his trademark loud energy as he sings at the top of his lungs but here it’s put through an emotional wringer, walking the line between dark and humorous as he pleads the title, “Somebody Kill Me Please.” Not to reveal a large portion of my listening habits, but the song itself genuinely sounds like something I’d listen to normally, in fact it’s now hanging out in one of my main playlists. While there’s no credence to this theory, I find it funny to imagine that this might have inspired many a Midwestern emo band, the genre’s shimmering guitars and small town angst driven singers all leading back to a Sandler romantic comedy. As for me, I still wish Sandler would be pickier with his roles (I dream of him in a Bob Dylan biopic) but I now appreciate him in the way that I appreciate Guy Fieri. Both do what they love, critics be damned, and even manage to put a little heart into it. I don’t think I’ll go back and see what I missed out on in Little Nicky or Jack and Jill. Maybe I’ll let The Meyerowitz Stories break the ice before I tackle Click.

An MFA graduate from Oklahoma State University, Wyeth Leslie is a poet and author interested in the intersection between technology, the environment, and human relationships. His writings have been featured in publications such as The Vital Sparks, Lost Futures, and Haywire Magazine. He can be found staring into the abyss on Twitter: @Wyeth_was_here

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