Review: The Do-Over – A shrieking nothing of an Adam Sandler comedy

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I DON’T know what dying feels like, but I imagine The Do-Over comes pretty close. The gradual numbing of both my senses and my body; the sensation that my very essence was dribbling out of me me; the understanding that this cost many more millions of dollars than I will ever have… it was a sobering, existential crawl of cosmic proportion. I stood upon the threshold of being, and questioned how, if there is a just God, it would allow there to be 30 more minutes of this fucking movie.

Adam Sandler films have transcended the need to instil emotion, you see. I said as much in my review of The Ridiculous Six; an excruciatingly unfunny couple of hours that, for all its rampant failings, managed to get one solitary laugh out of me. That’s My Boy, a repulsive piece of work that comedified statutory rape in its first five minutes, at least made me hate it. The Do-Over made me feel nothing. I’m not sure I’m feeling anything right now. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and I couldn’t feel it. In all honesty, this isn’t going to be a review. It’s going to be a testimony that I watched every single minute of the film.

The Do-Over is, in theory, a comedy, like every other Sandler vehicle, and all this talk of dying is appropriate when we consider the film’s narrative revolves around death. Charlie (David Spade) is a 40-something schlub who lives a miserable life as a bank manager in a supermarket. Max (Adam Sandler) has made a comparative success of himself. Unbeknownst to Charlie, Max conspires to fake their own deaths so they can start anew. Then things happen in Puerto Rico for a while, until they don’t anymore.

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The bar for a successful comedy is often rated by how many laughs it gets out of the audience. By that metric, The Do-Over is a total failure. Though the emphasis on action is pushed as a secondary focus, diluting the primary, comedic one, it should not take away from this fact. I did not laugh once in its entire span. My lips did not turn upwards. Not even so much as a smirk. I sighed several times, looked around the room, checked the remaining time and yelled loudly at the television.

There is nothing in the cinematic world more painful than a comedy that does not make you laugh. Around the 32 minute mark, I felt as if I was undergoing astral projection, watching myself watch the movie with glazed eyes and a blank expression. This is even mirrored in the film itself, when Charlie watches his own funeral from the shadows; an always-interesting notion, that is never further explored.

David Spade does the best he can with scenes like this – and he’s always been one of the more tolerable elements of these Happy Madison productions – but he’s the straight man in a cast of straight men, and his Willy Loman appearance relegates him to second billing behind Sandler. Sandler, to his credit, isn’t as excruciatingly annoying as he can be, but there’s no real substance to his performance.

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Really, this could have been anyone, but that’s not exclusive to Sandler; anyone in the cast could have been anyone else. They’ve come to say their lines, have a holiday and pick up a pay cheque. Paula Patton, of all the cast, tries her damndest to provide variety and depth to her role, but the character is sorely underwritten to the point of near-irrelevance.

But on to the comedy itself. The Do-Over starts with casual misogyny and doesn’t get any classier. The jokes are standard for a Happy Madison gig; laughing at the expense of gays, the elderly, and ethnic minorities. There’s plenty of gross-out humour, permitted by the 15 rating, the most heinous of which involves Jorge’s (Luis fucking Guzmán) testicle sweat dripping onto Charlie’s face. This is an image that we are reminded of constantly, usually accompanied by Sandler’s horse laugh to emphasise how funny it is. There are occasional images shown of naked, bloodied dead men, which might be amusing to sociopaths.

It fares better as an action film, at least. When assassins come to take down Charlie and Max, the shootouts are filmed with clarity and freedom of movement, the camera suddenly finding itself in clever positions hitherto unseen. It’s nothing spectacular, and it’s not going to give George Miller or Gareth Evans a run for their money, but it’s at least competent. These action scenes, few and far between, are as close as the film comes to looking and feeling cinematic.

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Everything else is bland as biscuits. The notion of visual storytelling has eluded Happy Madison since its inception. Nothing has changed here; the majority of scenes are filmed with flat angles, with simple cuts and reams of exposition. The narrative has more going on than the average Sandler film, but every single element of that plot is conveyed, exclusively, through verbal diarrhoea.

Max is good with a gun because we’re told he is; Charlie’s life sucks because he tells us it sucks; mysteries unravel because we’re told what the solutions are. There’s an attempted moment of drama later on that almost manages to be shown through visuals alone, and it’s immediately undercut by a character stating, out loud, what’s going on, as if we couldn’t work it out for ourselves. It presumes that the audience is imbecilic, which is especially damning considering the lack of intelligence onscreen. The central MacGuffin is a literal cure for cancer, for fuck’s sake.

But let’s level here. The only reason this exists – like Blended or Grown-Ups before it – is for Sandler and his chums to jet off to an exotic location, bask in the sunshine, down their mojitos and film a movie on a month-long hangover. It is perfunctory film-making of the laziest order, made to fulfil the terms of a four-movie deal with a distributor.

In a way, I wish it was worse than it is. The Ridiculous Six at least had the aura of controversy surrounding it, but this has nothing. At least then I could loathe it; I could feel something. It’s got no stakes, no controversy, no talking points – a big fat nothing of a motion picture. It’s been a long, eventful day since I saw it, and I’m still waiting for my soul to re-enter my body.

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