The second film in the Adam Sandler Netflix era after the horrible The Ridiculous 6 is still pretty bad moviemaking, but it’s a step in the right direction. Director Steven Brill made two of the better Sandler vehicles, Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds, and their third pairing has its moments. That’s thanks in large part to the pairing of Sandler and an effective David Spade, who is cast against type as Charlie, a nerd looking for new start on life. Sandler plays Max, who shows up at their high school reunion, takes pity on Charlie, and fakes both of their deaths so that they can smoke joints and drink for the rest of their lives. The plot isn’t that simple, and the two wind up being pursued by a killer in a fairly funny homage to Die Hard. The film is put together better than most of the later Sandler comedies, and it packs quite a few good laughs. Unfortunately, it also veers into overkill way too many times, and the gross stuff feels discordant and just wrong. Still, I liked the characters, and the film classes up a bit at the halfway mark when Paula Patton enters the picture. She has a fight with Kathryn Hahn that’s one of the better smackdowns in a movie this summer. The movie doesn’t work as a whole, but it does show that Sandler and Spade are a good screen duo when in the hands of a semi-capable director. Also, it has Natasha Leggero in it, and that’s always a good thing. Had everybody just held the phone on a few of the extreme sight gags, and perhaps edited a solid 15 minutes off the movie, I might’ve been able to recommend the film. As it stands, it’s a near miss. Hey, a near miss for Sandler these days is a major triumph! (Available for streaming on Netflix as part of Sandler’s straight-to-Netflix movie series.)
3 The Nice GuysShane Black, director of the classic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the very good Iron Man 3, returns to film noir with The Nice Guys, a grimy detective story starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. The movie is good. Just good. It’s often so good, it’s painful to witness the moments that don’t work. Crowe plays Jackson Healy, an L.A. loser who takes punching requests from people. Folks pay him to rough up child molesters, for the most part. He gets an assignment from Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who wants him to pay a visit to private detective Holland March (Gosling), a visit that turns out to be hilariously infused with comic violence. Holland and Jackson wind up working on a case together, one that involves Amelia, a dead porn star, and a gun for hire named John Boy (Matt Bomer, relishing the chance to be super nasty). When Gosling and Crowe are allowed to go off, the movie purrs on all cylinders. It’s when Black’s script (co-written with Anthony Bagarozzi) leads to a conspiracy involving Amelia’s mother, played by Kim Basinger, that it stalls out. That’s mainly because Basinger is tone-deaf in this film. She doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie she is in, and her line delivery is woefully over-the-top. In short, she’s blazingly terrible in her every scene. The film gets by thanks to the pairing of Gosling and Crowe, who work very well together. They’re like a modern day Abbott & Costello.