There's a scene in Sandy Wexler that defines this new Netflix chapter in Adam Sandler's career quite effectively. It involves Sandler's character Sandy Wexler, an incompetent but dedicated talent manager in the 1990s, who is talking to one of his clients, Gary Rodgers (Nick Swardson), a third-rate Evel Knievel, who is about to jump from one top-end of the HOLLYWOOD sign to the other, where a large pool lies, while set on fire. Unsurprisingly, upon flight, Rodgers gets hit with a flying bat mid-flight, and falls to the dry ground below while on fire, suffering third degree burns. The last shot shows the middle letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign engulfed in flames. There's a perfect metaphor for Sandler in the 2010s.
Sandy Wexler is Sandler's third film on an initial four-film deal with Netflix that was just extended to add four more films a few weeks back. After the abysmalRidiculous 6, the marginally passable The Do-Over, and whatever the hell Sandy Wexler is, that's five more films over the next five years we will see from Sandler on our favorite streaming platforms. Even though I've undoubtedly said more negative words about Sandler's work than positive ones, I will admit, it's a bit disheartening to see a comic titan fall to the level of streaming entertainment. After Jack and Jill,That's My Boy, Pixels, and Blended either took hits at the box office or barely broke even, Sandler's work is now only deemed fit for a second-tier release - not good enough for the multiplex yet still communicable to his dedicated fanbase. Maybe it's a win, but no matter the money, I feel it's still a loss.
Adam Sandler, Jennifer Hudson, Kevin James
14 April 2017
Steve's Grade: D+
As stated, this time around, Sandler plays Wexler, who is known in the industry as a well-meaning but woefully inept talent manager. A pathological liar to make people feel good with an annoyingly squeaky voice and a desire to bark a fake-laugh like a seal to reassure his clients' "talent," Wexler finally seems to hit the jackpot when he discovers Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson), a performer at a local carnival. Courtney is playing the ugly duckling and has a beautiful singing voice that Wexler recognizes instantly. He signs her to his managing company and the two begin to work together, meaning Wexler scrambles to get simple tasks done and Courtney finds a way to accomplish them largely on her own. However, she recognizes how well-meaning her manager is and how committed he is to his clients.
Frequently interjected are moments where a large number of celebrities are gathered in a banquet hall for an undisclosed reason. Everyone from Penn Jillette, Vanilla Ice, Pauly Shore, Henry Winkler, Lorne Michaels, Dana Carvey, David Spade, Kevin Nealon, Quincy Jones, Judd Apatow, to Arsenio Hall gather, dapper as can be, drinking and reflecting about how they encountered Wexler and subsequently had their career bettered by avoiding or dumping him and taking a different path. But like them all, they recognize his commitment because he tries.
As Courtney suddenly soars to Whitney Houston-esque heights, Wexler begins to as well, but just like him, he starts to falter with her and his other clients by doing more harm than good while out of his element. Aside from Rodgers, Wexler also manages Ted Raffert (Kevin James), a low-level ventriloquist who gets the job of a lifetime after another puppeteer on a kids show kills himself. Ted is ecstatic but needs Wexler to close the deal and Wexler eventually needs Ted to still feel useful.
Sandy Wexler's biggest flaws come in the form of the titular character and the runtime. With the former, Sandler plays a tired variation on his hapless, nasally dope that was exhausted by the half-hour mark of both Billy Madison and The Waterboy. If Sandler could've stuck to being more like himself rather than a cookie-cutter, high-voiced schlub, he would've had a more workable presence here, and even better, a character you could stomach for the duration the film asks you to.
Indeed, Sandy Wexler is an ass-numbing 131 minute affair, poorly paced with what seems like two different climaxes and dreadfully overlong well into eighty minutes.
The film does have its moments. A tender instance involving Wexler and one of his clients, a wrestler known as "Bedtime" Bobby Barnes (Terry Crews), occurs a little after the halfway point and nicely articulates how even through Wexler's inconsistencies he can still help a friend in need. The scenes involving Wexler and Ted late in the film also carry a bit more weight because, for once, rather than having us laugh at Wexler's ineptitude or shameless fibbing, like we do for a good portion of the film, we're finally seeing him doing right by a client and succeeding. While, of course, the film couldn't succeed on that basis alone, it's a testament to the repetitive, almost exhausting nature of the premise, which intends to tell the same joke over again and again.
Sandy Wexler at least looks as if Sandler is trying to make a film. This is noticeable even if, first and foremost, it looks like he went through the contacts in his phone, starting with Allen Covert and ending with "Weird Al" Yankovic, called each one, and gathered them all together to give them cameo appearances in a film that he came up with as he went along. If we have to endure five more Netflix films by Sandler, let's hope they're a bit better but not any worse than Sandy Wexler.