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A Review of "The Do-Over"

Does anybody even read reviews of Adam Sandler movies anymore?  Just seems like they might be superfluous at this point.  Happy Madison Productions is so strongly associated with garbage that it's practically their mascot.

Well, just in case, here's more than enough words on Sandler's latest Netflix exclusive, The Do-Over.  It's the tale of a depressed, middle-aged schlub played by David Spade who struggles with the pains of disappointment until his friend (Sandler) surprises him one day by faking their deaths.  Antics ensue.

I should open by mentioning that I haven't actually watched a full-on Sandler movie in something like eight years.  Sure, I've watched stuff like The Cobbler, but that's just a movie with Sandler in it - a very different breed.  I haven't had a dose of pure Sandler since You Don't Mess With the Zohan.  That was the year I said, "You know what?  Life's too short.  I'm pretty sure now that Anger Management, Eight Crazy Nights, Click, The Longest Yard, Mr. Deeds, and Little Nicky weren't just flukes."  The fact that it took me seven straight turds to finally swear him off is a testament to his early work.

Regardless, I've been morbidly fascinated by Sandler's career.  I can't help but follow the inevitable critical backlash and the horror stories surrounding each new movie he makes.  Jack and Jill, That's My Boy, and of course, the dreaded Grown-Ups movies....  I almost feel like I've seen them purely through osmosis.  I just can't help it.  I have to know what he's up to.

All of this is a long way of saying that the bar was extremely low and I had no expectations, and yet somehow, despite all odds, The Do-Over managed to disappoint me. I don't mean that it's worse than I expected.  Quite the opposite, actually - it's significantly better than I expected.  Quite possibly his best movie since Big Daddy.  But it still falls short of being a good movie, and that's why it hurts so much.  You got so close, man.

Let's talk about the good first, and that can be summed up with two words: David Spade.  He's terrific in this movie.  It may be one of his best performances, to be honest.  He's basically playing the put-upon loser / nerd character he played in his partnerships with Chris Farley back in the '90s, only now he's older and sadder.  Whether it's because of real-life hardships or because he's just a good actor, Spade nails the mannerisms and delivery of middle-aged malaise.

He's likable enough and sad enough that you immediately empathize and want to see what happens to him.  Consequently, he's the only reason I made it through the end of the movie.

Sandler on the other hand....

Let me put it this way.  There's a lot of reasons I've come to hate Sandler's movies, but the biggest is that he is no longer capable of being a compelling protagonist.  In early Sandler movies, he was an oddball that people hated, so the odds were against him and you'd feel invested in his struggle.  But as the years have gone on, Sandler's characters have changed from schlubby underdogs to popular cool guys.  By the time I reached Zohan, he was playing a super-soldier with rugged good looks who could (and did) bed any lady he wanted.

What's funny about that?  Nobody watches a comedy to see an awesome dude who's good at everything succeed at having sex.

The Do-Over is just more of the same for him, and it's as frustrating as ever.  Everybody thinks he's hot, he's smart and amazing at everything he does, and he's just sooooooo cool about everything.  Who cares?  It's made worse by the fact that Spade is so much better - he's having this really interesting adventure, but Sandler keeps finding ways to shove himself into the limelight.

There's a perfectly good buddy comedy to be made here where both characters are losers, but Sandler just can't help himself.  He can't just be a loser.  No, he has to be this perfect, alpha-male asshole who's better and handsomer and stronger and more talented than everyone else.  It's like he's got a disease or something.

The worst example is when Spade is lounging in a pool and a goon with a machine gun starts shooting at him.  It's actually a really good scene at first.  You see the tough guy come up and Spade is a nerveless twerp and you think, "Wow, how's he going to get out of it?"  And then the movie actually freezes so Spade can have some voice-over telling us one more time how awesome Sandler is, and then Sandler turns into an action star for no reason and saves Spade's life.

Imagine if that happened in Die Hard.  Bruce Willis is pinned behind all that broken glass and has no more ammunition, and he goes, "You all should know something.... Hart Bochner is a killing machine."  And then Bochner comes diving through a window with a shotgun in each hand and kills Hans Gruber.

I'm willing to overlook all the other flaws this movie has - oh, and there are many.  It looks cheap.  Spade's narration is useless and ruins all the momentum.  There's heaps of random misogyny.  The plot makes no goddamn sense and gets stupider and stupider as it goes on until it finally hits a third-act reveal that's actually more of a goddamn waste of time than Anger Management.

(Actually, I can't let this one go.  The twist is so stupid I'm obligated to spoil it: Sandler's character is dying of cancer and his doctor has discovered a miraculous cancer treatment that's 100% effective, but before he can use it on Sandler, he is murdered by a pharmaceutical conspiracy, so Sandler tricks Spade into joining him on a vacation to Puerto Rico so he can fake their deaths and assume the doctor's (and friend's) identities in order to dig through the doctor's files and resume his cancer treatments.  Why this is easier and more straightforward than virtually anything else he could have done, I don't know.  Absolutely none of the movie makes sense once you find this out.)

All that stuff is bad, but not bad enough to make me hate the movie.  I was still enjoying Spade's adventure and I was really curious to see what would happen to him.  Too bad his dickhead friend had to tag along and ruin it.