Adam Sandler is the new Frank Sinatra. Look at that sentence for a minute. Take it in. There are Hitchcock films less disquieting. Well, strap yourself in; the ride’s about to get wilder. Not only is Sandler the new Sinatra, he and cohorts David Spade, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and Chris Rock, I contend, are the contemporary correlative of the Rat Pack.
It’s not that far-fetched a cultural observation. Each new generation gets its own more or less. History’s first recorded example in fact predates Old Blue Eyes. The oldest Rat Pack known to science was led by none other than Humphrey Bogart.
This prehistoric Pack was rounded out by Hollywood legends Rex Harrison, Nat King Cole, Cesar Romero and Errol Flynn, though technically Romero may have forfeited his Hollywood legend status since he’ll forever be remembered as the Joker from the TV series Batman. But I digress. The point is this was the Rat Pack 1.0.
Sinatra’s reboot featured entertainers who frequently performed in Vegas and partied just as professionally. The core was Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford, until Sinatra excommunicated him for mishandling a situation involving President Kennedy (a fate which appears to have befallen longtime Sandler sidekick Rob Schneider. But more on that momentarily).
Just as Sinatra and his buddies were, Sandler and his pals are in the enviable position of having the muscle to do their thing for fun and profit. They routinely cast each other in their films, sharing the wealth along with the laughs indifferent to the opinion of critics (Sandler’s never gone longer than five years without a Razzie nomination).
In 1960 Sinatra founded Reprise Records so he and his friends could enjoy greater artistic control and a fatter percentage of profits. In 1999 Sandler founded Happy Madison Productions for the same reasons. There’s a difference between the two when it comes to their acumen as entrepreneurs, however: Sandler’s by far the savvier businessman.
His movies may not earn many stars but they routinely make staggering profits. The first Grown Ups cost $80 million and rang up $271 million. “Ring-a-ding-ding!” as Frank would say. A typical production runs about $80 million and grosses more than $200 million. The studio produced Paul Blart: Mall Cop for $25 million making $225 million. This is what’s called laughing all the way to the bank. He may win the occasional Razzie but Sandler never loses money.
Oh, Grown Ups 2—the high school buds have moved back to their Connecticut home town so you know what that means: Gags about deer urinating in characters’ faces; gags about James attempting to perfect the “burpsnart” (a burp, sneeze and fart in rapidfire succession); gags about wives who wish the guys would, um, grow up and, naturally, Sandler throwing an ’80s-themed bash at which the J. Geils Band provides the tunes. Why not?
Not all are classic moments in cinema. Several—including a car wash gag I neglected to mention—are a hoot and half though. There’s a definite sense that Grown Ups 2 was probably more fun to make than to watch, but hey, that’s what being a Rat Pack’s all about. Life’s a party for these people—including frequent Sandler director Dennis Dugan (Big Daddy) and scribes Fred Wolf and Tim Herlihy—and you’re cordially invited.
Unless your name’s Rob Schneider. MIA from recent Happy Madison productions, the actor’s cited “money issues” for having been given the Peter Lawford treatment. Apparently he felt he deserved more. Apparently he hasn’t sat through Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.
Critics, it goes without saying, will savage Sandler’s latest while fans make him even wealthier and more of an industry force. Like the Chairman before him, he has reason for few regrets about doing it his way.