ADAM Sandler has a new movie out. It’s called The Ridiculous Six. He stars in the film, alongside Rob Schneider, Taylor Lautner, Terry Crews, Luke Wilson and Jorge Garcia. It features cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and Vanilla Ice. It is set in the Wild West, and involves the titular six embarking on a quest to save their promiscuous bandit father (Nick Nolte). It is directed by long-time Sandler associate, Frank Coraci. It is a Happy Madison production and is distributed exclusively by Netflix as part of a four-movie deal with Sandler.
Alarming as they are, these are facts, and indisputable ones at that. What is disputable, however, is the assertion that The Ridiculous Six is a “comedy”. Comedies, by definition, are designed to coax laughter from its intended audience. By contrast, The Ridiculous Six is a laughless, joyless tumbleweed that crawls across the screen for two consecutive hours and limps into the horizon with the faint whiff of embarrassment lagging behind.
Sandler’s films have evolved beyond inciting anger or vitriolic responses. Whereas That’s My Boy and Grown Ups may have summoned the pitchforks, The Ridiculous Six has managed to graduate to total, flaccid indifference. Certainly there’s enough offensive and tasteless content to rouse the vengeance-seeker in all of us – white actors playing Native American characters with names like Smoking Fox, Beaver Breath and Never Wears Bra – but the wit is so barren that to react to it with actual, palpable emotion would be giving it too much credit.
Sandler certainly doesn’t care. His underplayed performance as White Knife, adopted Native ninja extraordinaire, is uncharacteristically muted, but it seems almost like a meta-commentary on his studio’s approach to filmmaking on a whole: Lazy and uninspired. In fairness, Sandler and Rob Schneider, his accomplice in crimes against comedy, fare the best of the cast precisely because they’re so deadpan, despite Schneider being dressed up as a stereotypical Mexican.
The film’s cultural and racial sensitivity seems firmly grounded in the 50s, ironically the halcyon days of the western. Beyond the aforementioned Native names – no doubt partially to blame for several Native extras very publicly walking off-set and never coming back – and Schneider’s questionable mannerisms, Terry Crews’ sole characteristic is his ability to play the piano with his penis. He later “comes out” as being black. It’s Crews’ fault for taking the part in the first place, certainly, but to waste an actor with this much charisma can only be blamed on the filmmakers.
Even worse is the appalling treatment of Harvey Keitel. As a gurning saloon owner, Keitel is suitably manic, at least, but it’s been a long time since Bad Lieutenant. Much like de Niro, his Scorsese-alum contemporary, Keitel is too quick to slum it these days, and it’s a bit sad. Danny Trejo’s presence is certainly expected, but Steve Buscemi also turns up. It’s just as inexplicable as when he appeared for other Happy Madison productions (e.g. Grown Ups) , and no less distressing for it.
Nick Nolte is loving this shit, apparently, because he actually gives a real performance. Granted, it’s not a far cry from every Nolte performance in the past decade or so, but it’s reliably efficient and gravelly. One could argue that Nolte and Keitel have earned the easy paycheck after so many wonderful turns, but it’s rather less gratifying to see them gamely embarrass themselves with the knowledge of their prior roles.
But the timing’s all off. None of the jokes land on the correct beat. The height of humour revolves around a burro with explosive diarrhoea. Long, meandering dialogue sequences that repeat established information are followed by long, meandering dialogue sequences are reiterate the same information again. Visual “jokes” stretch on forever and are accompanied by cast members loudly shouting a description of what we can already see. Vanilla Ice is Mark Twain, and his dialogue is peppered with anachronistic 80s lingo.
At least the lighting and the direction is nice. Considering it’s Happy Madison, a studio notorious for skimping on production values, the costumes and general look of the film, including actual locations and old-timey sets, suggest a greater sense of scale and technical accomplishment than usual. That’s not saying much, granted, but it’s a step up nonetheless.
Longtime fans of Sandler will inevitably watch and possibly enjoy The Ridiculous Six, but even they must be starting to tire of his multi-million dollar shtick. I laughed once, near the end, and that was more an exhausted shrug of mirth as I tried to remember the best bits of Blazing Saddles. This is a nothing movie that delivers tedium on a colossal scale, and that’s saying too much for it. Netflix should be ashamed.