It's big news when an animated movie aimed at tykes cuts into Adam Sandler's fan base and whups his ass. That's what happened this weekend when Kung Fu Panda, with Jack Black doing the voice of a roly-poly Chinese bear, took in $60 million from 4,114 theaters, leaving Sandler's You Don't Mess With the Zohan to eat its dust with $40 million from 3,462 theaters. OK, $40 million is nothing to blow hummus at, it's only the fifth Sandler movie to debut at that mark (The Longest Yard is the No. One Sandler opening at $48 million). But who could have guessed that 71 percent of the Panda audience would be over 17 and that 51 percent would be over 25? Also, Panda won much better reviews, 85 percent favorable according to the rottentomatoes Website, as opposed to 35 percent favorable for Zohan, starring Sandler as a Mossad agent who chucks commando work to cut and style hair in New York. Sharp idea for a comedy with a sting — and Sandler is quite good in it — but oh the sloppy execution. Now that Sandler is stuck with a panda's sloppy seconds, it might be time to consider a few questions: Is Sandler talented?
I say YES. Sandler is superb in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, and solid in James L. Brooks' underrated Spanglish. No way does Sandler deserve to be penalized for dumping comedy to take on a dramatic role. He even has his moments in Mike Binder's way overdone Reign Over Me, playing a dentist who lost his wife and two children when their jet crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Is Sandler funny?
I'd say YES again. But his comedies, including Zohan, miss more often than hit, often because of a jones for potty humor that borders on addiction and a sentimental streak that blunts his tougher jokes.
So, for an exercise, I'll list my favorite Sandler films, goodies and guilty pleasures, and you do the same. Let's see if we can can get some consensus going:
THE BEST OF SANDLER
Punch Drunk Love
The Wedding Singer
The Waterboy (so sue me)
THE WORST OF SANDLER
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Eight Crazy Nights