Is Sandler a contender for ‘Funny People?’

Posted by · 12:15 pm · July 26th, 2009

Adam Sandler in Funny PeopleI can’t say I saw this coming. Since the expansion of the Best Picture category, several people have considered Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” as a possible populist nominee in the race, while speculating that it could also land him a writing nod after near-misses (and Guild citations) for his previous two features.

Meanwhile, others (Kris included) have sniffed awards potential for well-liked supporting thesp (and, of course, Mrs. Apatow) Leslie Mann. But whether due to his own dodgy résumé or the Academy’s anti-comedy bias in the lead races, no one has mentioned the film’s star, Adam Sandler, as much of an awards threat.

The reviews, however, tell a slightly different story. Although response to the film itself is mixed, the word for Sandler is very strong indeed, recalling the “OMG he can act” notices he garnered for “Punch-Drunk Love” seven years ago (which of course landed him a Golden Globe nod, if no Oscar traction).

Screen International’s Mike Goodridge is guarded on the film, citing a “gargantuan” 146-minute running time and an “unwieldy mishmash of ideas and comic styles” as problems, but goes ahead and tempts awards fate for Sandler:

(The film) just about compensates for its many indulgences with typically warm humour and a knockout lead performance from Adam Sandler which shows a deepening maturity in the actor that could land him awards attention.

Sandler … steers the drama through its various convolutions – away from the saccharine and into a multi-layered portrait of a man who knows how to make people laugh but who has lost the ability to connect with them.

Variety’s Todd McCarthy is similarly divided on the film (“amusing and engaging yet lacking in snap and cohesion”), and enthusiastically echoes the praise for Sandler, while putting a damper on Mann’s hopes:

Adam Sandler’s central performance as some version of himself is notable for its revelation of callowness and ambivalent self-regard, which will fascinate some fans and turn off others … But the many insights into everything from the man’s arrogance to his self-derision make you feel you’re getting something real here, and Sandler’s gruff, offhand manner combines with his comic alertness to very good effect.

(Mann’s Laura) is just not an interesting or even very tolerable character, her behavior stemming entirely from confusion, panic and emotional impulse. Mann hits all the surface notes, but never reveals anything beneath the manic surface.

Kirk Honeycutt’s Hollywood Reporter review reads very similarly to the others — describing it as a “transitional” film for the director, he praises the characters for being “better realized and more lifelike than (in) any previous “Apatow film” but cites serious third-act trouble — but doesn’t offer much on the performances.

These early reviews are a bit of a dent to the awards-level expectations that some had of the film, which could struggle to match the phenomenal box-office of Apatow’s previous work. Sandler, however, could be a name to add to the contenders list, albeit on its lower reaches.

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21 responses so far

  • 1 7-26-2009 at 12:53 pm

    AdamL said...

    But they were wrong to say he can act when PDL came out, and thet’re wrong to say it again now.

    Sandler cannot act. He’s annoying and unable to convincingly convey emotion beyond a very limited range. Just because a talented director like PTA managed to create a very specific character and directed him well enough to mask his shortcomings doesn’t mean he is suddenly a great actor, and when a not so talented director like Apatow tries to do the same, it still doesn’t mean he is suddenly a great actor.

    But I’m certain Oscar knows this – in fact if Sandler gets an Oscar nom I will only watch Adam Sandler films for the rest of my life to punish myself for doubting him so much.

  • 2 7-26-2009 at 1:03 pm

    John H. Foote said...

    I too am not sure about Sandler’s abilities as an actor — in this new one he is playing a variation of himself, and in ‘Punch Drunk Love” he gave a very muted performance of the same character he has been playing for yeras — you know that dude that freaks out without provacation? — the mere change seemed to have some critics falling over themselves with superlatives for his work but come on, one performance does not a great actor make, ‘Rocky” proved that — that said, I quite liked his work in “Spanglish” but am not yet ready to state that he is a fine actor..not yet.

  • 3 7-26-2009 at 1:05 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    nooo, had such high hopes for this movie, and i love sandlers old stuff but im hoping for a more interesting best actor win this year, though a nomination for sandler could be a step forward. Ill take this as a learning curve for Apatow

  • 4 7-26-2009 at 1:05 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I have to agree with AdamL. Sandler can play one thing and one thing only. He can do it brilliantly (as in Punch-Drunk Love) or lazily (as in everything else). His attempts at expanding that range were embarrassing (Spanglish/Reign Over Me).

  • 5 7-26-2009 at 1:31 pm

    James D. said...

    It is tough to say. I thought he had his moments in the Wedding Singer.

  • 6 7-26-2009 at 2:05 pm

    Chris said...

    If Jim Carrey can’t score a nod, then I’m sure Adam Sandler can’t either, even if he’s great.

  • 7 7-26-2009 at 2:40 pm

    El Rocho said...

    I agree with Chad, ‘Reign Over Me’ was such an embarrassment for Sandler. I did like him in PDL, and my guilty pleasures of his have to be ‘Happy Gilmour’ and ‘You Don’t Mess With the Zohan’. Horrible films, I know, but I can’t help but like them. The rest is horrible. I did, though, think the first 30 minutes of ‘Click’ were amazing. I thought, ‘Finally! An actually ‘good’ Sandler comedy!” But then it fizzled to boring, melodramatic bullshit and ruined everything. It could have been so original! But with everything into context, I agree. I highly doubt Sandler will get a nomination. Golden Globes, sure he will. But definately not the Oscars. And like Chris said, if Jim Carrey can’t get a nominations (which he should have with either ‘The Truman Show’, ‘Man on the Moon’ or ‘Eternal Sunshine’) Sandler doesn’t have a shot in hell. If he does, I’m going to be VERY, VERY surprised.

  • 8 7-26-2009 at 4:19 pm

    The InSneider said...

    Wrong! Someone has been saying Sandler is a contender (ME!) but not for an Oscar nom. I think he could nail a Golden Globe nom, potentially stealing SBC’s spot after Bruno failed to live up to Borat. Sandler CAN ACT. He was EXCELLENT in Reign Over Me, not Punch-Drunk Love, which is OVERRATED. The Best Actor race is weak this year but not weak enough that Sandler will be able to sneak in. But a Golden Globes nod isn’t out of the question at all and if I was the Sandman, I’d be pretty happy with that. ALSO, Leslie Mann has no shot at a Supporting statue. Just not a big enough or special enough role for her.

  • 9 7-26-2009 at 4:47 pm

    Martin Unger said...

    The only reviews so far to rave about it have been the two early reviews that The Awards Circuit put up…seems two of their writers (Joey Magidson and Keith Lucas I believe) were at the Museum of the Moving Image screening in Manhattan and reviewed the film, and they dig it a great deal…don’t know what that means, but I read the reviews that site puts up and they tend to be on the mark, so who knows.

  • 10 7-26-2009 at 5:32 pm

    Georgie said...

    I’ll agree with Chris, if Jim Carrey wasn’t nominated for Eternal Sunshine, Adam Sandler had better not get in.

    The prospect of an Apatow film being more recognized than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is quite horrifying to me, actually.

  • 11 7-26-2009 at 8:59 pm

    ThePlaylist said...

    Nope. Seen it. No one’s getting nominations on this one. Maybe a Golden Globe, but not an Oscar nod. Sure if there was 10 pics he might, but nah. Not gonna happen.

  • 12 7-26-2009 at 9:25 pm

    Douglas said...

    Reign Over Me anyone?
    I thought that was his best work to date.
    Even if the film wasn’t that great I thought he carried it really well.

  • 13 7-26-2009 at 9:30 pm

    Bing147 said...

    I think you underrate Sandler. I think he was strong in Spanglish, fantastic in Reign Over Me, amazing in Punch Drunk Love. He had some seriously inspired moments in Wedding Singer. He was charming in 50 First Dates and was actually very good in Click. (Though the fact that the film didn’t work on any level overshadowed his strong work in it)

    I’m not saying the man is a great actor but he’s far from untalented.

  • 14 7-26-2009 at 10:27 pm

    Silencio said...

    John, I would ask if two awesome performances in the same series would work in Sly’s favor. He was really moving to me in “Rocky Balboa”…

    I am generally an Adam Sandler fan when he tries something more challenging, like “PDL” or “Reign Over Me”, so I’m curious.

  • 15 7-27-2009 at 2:29 am

    AdamL said...

    I thought Stallone was truly excellent in Copland.

  • 16 7-27-2009 at 2:56 am

    EmsF said...

    I loved Reign Over Me too and think it’s a shame that comedy stars are always overlooked when they try and break out of their mould and prove they are not just a one-trick pony. I thought Carrey deserved some recognition for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sandler for Reign Over Me. Maybe the next Oscars will prove eventful for comedy stars and female filmmakers. I reckon anything could happen

  • 17 7-27-2009 at 7:10 am

    Ben M. said...

    I thought he deserved a nod for Punch-Drunk Love and had his moments in other movies. And while I felt a nod could be forthcoming if Funny People got the kind of reviews Knocked Up did, with the mixed response I’m thinking a Globe nod at best.

  • 18 7-27-2009 at 10:13 am

    Eunice said...

    @Georgie: I’m scared of the prospect as well. If that happens, I’ll be gobsmacked and would not get over it until Oscar night.

    My take on this: Sandler’s range is limited, but good direction does something for the guy. It probably doesn’t help that he’s been boxed in and written as “the guy who freaks out”, but I think he was pretty respectable in Reign Over Me, Punch Drunk Love, Happy Gilmore, and 50 First Dates.

    But then again, it might just be all talk. We’ll see.

  • 19 7-27-2009 at 10:18 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Yeah, the Carrey resemblance is striking. Sad though, he truly is heartbreaking in this film.

  • 20 7-27-2009 at 1:41 pm

    JAB said...


  • 21 7-27-2009 at 8:07 pm

    Bill said...

    Sandler’s role in Funny People is much baitier and thoroughly written than Jim Carrey’s in Eternal Sunshine. Sure, Carrey is better, but the script didn’t focus on his Joel character to half the extent that Funny People focuses on George Simmons.

    If they’ll give a nomination to Eddie Murphy, I don’t think career can hardly interfere.

    Even still, a longshot.

    Oh, and take the Awards Circuit reviews with a grain of salt, they’re generally written at the fourth grade level.