Thinking Inside the Box

Adam Sandler just can't shake his infatuation with kids, being a kid, and remembering what it was like being a kid---along with adults acting like, well, kids.

Sandler is currently starring in "Grown Ups 2" and this is not a review of that film. Not that I could give you a review of "Grown Ups," either, because like the sequel, I didn't see that flick.

This isn't about whether "Grown Ups 2" is a good movie or not; cinematic beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. Rather, this is about Sandler, and why I just can't shake the feeling that there could be so much more from him.

Not in terms of quantity, but in quality.

I look at Sandler and I see an actor who has never really spread his wings. He hasn't tackled material outside of his comfort zone. There are flashes of a warmer, more introspective side in each of his films, and there's a hint that he could take on heavier, more layered characters. Yet he doesn't.

I'm not saying Sandler should be Will Smith, another actor who got started playing adolescent characters but who turned into an action/adventure guy, along with being quite able to do comedy and drama. But why doesn't Sandler try something a little more edgy? Maybe something that might make our eyes get a little moist?

It's in there. I know it is. I just wish we could see it.

Sandler connects with his audience, but only on one level---the child in all of us. That's fine, but it frustrates me to see an actor who I think can give us so much more, yet seemingly refuses.

I also don't think Sandler should be Johnny Depp---the world's greatest actor, by the way---but what is the harm in trying?

Sandler makes movies with his band of brothers, and that's OK too. You're likely to see David Spade or Kevin Nealon or Nick Swardson show up. You'll always see Allen Covert, who is literally in every Sandler film, and looking totally different in every one. There are other character actors who frequently turn up in any movie made by Sandler's Happy Madison production company.

That's all fine and dandy. This isn't about Sandler's movie cronies. It's about Sandler, who is one of so many who made the successful transition from small screen to silver screen via the Saturday Night Live route.

Sandler hasn't changed much, physically, which is appropriate because he hasn't changed much, artistically.

The aforementioned Smith seemed to not be able to wait to try juicier roles. He's played everything from an imperfect super hero to one of the Men in Black to Muhammad Ali.

Sandler, on the other hand, seems content to stay inside his sandbox.

The comparison between Smith and Sandler is apt because of their ages. Smith is 44; Sandler is 46. Neither has changed much physically; both have aged rather well. But the former has lapped the latter in terms of acting diversity so many times, it's unreal.

This might appear to be a knock on Sandler but it's more of an intervention. He's made a boatload of dough in the movies, so it's not about financial success. It's about professional and artistic fulfillment. It's about giving us more than what we've seen.

Happy Madison Productions is a combination of Sandler film titles Billy Madison (1995) and Happy Gilmore (1996). Those movies are almost 20 years old. And still Sandler is making films that appeal to our inner child, which has been explored again and again.

Oh, how I wish he was more adventurous.


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