Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Do-Over (2016) - Movie Review

It’s Adam Sandler time again. hooray. I know that I’m running the risk of looking needlessly contrarian, but I stand by what I’ve been saying all this time. I still have the same love for Sandler’s older work that I had when I was a kid, and while his newer work is definitely several flights of steps down, I fail to see what makes it so bad that it warrants the scorn that’s been regularly thrown his way. Well, mostly fail to see: Along the same lines of maintaining opinion, That’s My Boy is still one of the single worst films I’ve ever sat through and last year’s The Ridiculous Six still sucks on rye bread. And it seems like we’re going forward down the road Ridiculous Six has lain before us, as this is the second of the scheduled four films that Happy Madison is co-producing with Netflix. I’d argue that taking him off of cinema screens is definitely a step in the right direction, but keep in mind just how many people are watching shows and movies through on-line streaming; he’s still going to nab an audience. Which includes me this time around, as I take a look at his latest... well, 'effort' is a bit of a stretch, but we’ll only see just how much of a stretch once we get started.

The plot: Charlie (David Spade) is a weary and dissatisfied bank manager who, at his high school reunion, runs into his old friend Max (Adam Sandler). Wanting a change in their lives, Max fakes their deaths and sets them up new identities so that they can start again. However, it seems that the identities that they took over lived sordid lives before Charlie and Max turned up, and somebody wants them dead all over again.

Is there really a point in me bringing up Sandler’s acting on this one? I mean, the guy has effectively been playing the same loathsome douchebasket for the past several years, just with different job titles. Even in films where I’m willing to defend the guy like Pixels and The Cobbler, he’s still playing this misanthropic ladies man that would, in the real world, be castrated and then pumped full of magic science gunk just so that he can be castrated all over again. One of the few upsides of inflicting horrible movies on myself so often: No guilt about wanting bad things to happen to a fictional character.

As for the rest of the cast, Spade is part of the Happy Madison clan that gains him disdain by association. This is in spite of the fact that, much like Rob Schneider, he really isn’t that grating. He’s playing a guy with absolutely zero spine, but he is at least decent enough to fulfil that role as best he can. Nick Swardson, on the other hand, does deserve every bit of scorn doled out to him and the running gag of him getting hit by cars is just about the only continually pleasant opportunity this film affords us. Matt Walsh is okay, Paula Patton works well opposite Sandler and Spade, Torsten Voges is kind of fun as the psychotic gymnast (that barely makes sense in context) and Kathryn Hahn does a good job playing the crazy psycho lover. Other than that, it’s just a lot of mourning for lost careers: Sean Astin, RenĂ©e Taylor, Michael fucking Chiklis; you can almost hear filmgoers crying themselves to sleep with every second that they’re on screen. And that’s without even getting into the content of the film, which... oh boy.

This is one of those special plots where, right from the trailer, it is abundantly clear that the film is going to suck. Hell, going just by the trailer, I now cannot listen to MOP’s Ante Up without wanting to throw up. So much for my happy place. As for the actual premise, this whole ‘mistaken identity leads to shenanigans’ plot is about as old Hollywood as it is possible to get. Not to say that it can’t be used for good comedy anymore; Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey was a very enjoyable watch, and it started out on that same plot note. The problem is that the characters involved in said mistaken identity plot are unwatchable from frame one. They’re written like horror movie protagonists, as in we’re supposed to hate them, except here that is meant to lead into laughter. It’s the magic trick of making us like complete arseholes, only we’re meant to find them funny as well, neither of which actually happens. Charlie, as stated above, is completely devoid of a backbone and, whenever it seems like he’s going to bite back and say what the audience well and truly is thinking, he recedes and becomes the wimp again. Of course, when he finally does lash out, it ends up reeking of violent misogyny that makes him look like just a clone of Max in the making. And then there’s Max himself, who takes the dickish persona he’s adopted of late and cranks it all the way up to a number not yet discovered by humans. To put this into perspective, not even in That’s My Boy, easily the worst film he’s done, was his character this bad.

There’s a certain art to pulling off a likeable arsehole character on screen. It usually comes from our innate want for some somewhat abrasive and off-colour humour, embodied by a character who holds no earthly qualms about the things they say. But he still has to be a reasonable human being at the same time, doing a balancing act where the jokes don’t translate into real-world behaviour. Basically, it’s the difference between making a joke about dressing up like Rolf Harris and going into a children’s hospital, and then actually doing it. Adam Sandler, for as much as I’m willing to defend his output even today, has never been able to pull that off, and it’s here that his tactlessness comes screaming into the foreground. Max, with every line of dialogue he has, is always putting other people down, always getting people into bad situations and, when he’s confronted on it, always pushes the blame onto other people.

Even in the rare few moments that he is shown doing something positive, it is always to serve his own selfish ends. The film has enough self-awareness to try and redeem his character through his backstory, but by that point the damage is done. He is a complete cad who dragged his supposed friend through numerous brushes with death, belittling him all the while, and yet we’re meant to feel sorry for him? If that doesn’t illustrate the point enough, let me put it in the film’s terms: Max ends up taken hostage, with a lubed-up gear shift covered in broken glass ready to be shoved inside of him. Out of sheer contempt for this character, the only thing about that scene I would change is that the gear shift would not only be put in him, but put in sideways. Oh yeah; it’s that bad.

The soundtrack is just about as perfect as you can get for a story like this, and I mean that in the worst way possible. With a film this soaked in alpha-male arrogance and just blind idiocy, what better match-up could we ask for than the sheer depths of bro-country? We got  Toby Keith talking about just how much alcohol has killed his brain cells and Florida Georgia Line recommending the only way to sit through this film with your sanity intact: A metric butt-ton of weed. It also incorporates a song from pop song piss-stain Pitbull, showing off more of the irresponsible side of 'party and fuck the consequences' that this film takes some time out to revel in. We also have a bit of Point Grey mimicry with how they try to use Madonna’s Crazy For You during one of the climactic fight scenes, only it misses the mark quite considerably (if that was even what they were aiming for in the first place). I sure hope you like the Zac Brown Band, because otherwise there’s pretty nothing here for more discerning music listeners. Then again, if you’re a more discerning anything, chances are you are the last person who would willingly watch this thing.

All in all, I’m seriously considering getting off the defensive bandwagon on this one. It’s taken a lot to shake me from my stance of being fair to Adam Sandler, but this might have finally done it. It’s unlikable, irritating, not funny in the slightest, and apparently it’s only the second of four films that Sandler has teamed up with Netflix for, meaning that we’re not even done yet. It’s 100 minutes that I’ll never get back, but at least they’re over. Of course, given how I kept pausing the film to recover from all the moments of exasperation, it was something closer to 4 hours.

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