This is the first article in a series of articles examining the films that Adam Sandler has written according to IMDB to see why his films in the 90's are so revered compared to his ones more recently. We'll look at critics reviews and take it one film at a time to see why he is so hated critically yet so loved at the box office.
Let's start by saying that we're not trying to place a definition on comedy itself as it is subjective because in a sense thinking about what makes you laugh is ironical and makes no sense. This is more of a personal journey on nostalgia and personal sense of humor. Maybe it'll lead to dark insight or nothing at all. If you find these films funny then pay no attention as you should with any movie or media you enjoy criticized to an umpteenth degree by anyone. With that out of the way, on to the piece of hell on earth known as Going Overboard.
Now Adam Sandler movies weren't always the butt of jokes. People that grew up in the 80's and 90's loved the guy. So much so, that even his songs like "The Thanksgiving Song" and "The Hanukkah Song" got airplay on the radio. On SNL he was one of the biggest standouts aside from an already impressive roster on staff. So the next move was obviously films. Throughout the years, Sandler's strong points were Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. So much that they're quoted to this day, but somewhere along the way something changed or hasn't. Today, we'll look at his very first film that he provided additional material to, Going Overboard.
Not very well known outside of that one movie you saw at Wal Mart in the 90's with the horrible photoshop starring Adam Sandler and that one preview for that film you saw on the Best of Adam Sandler SNL DVD you bought on sale in that bin of DVD's on sale. Going Overboard stars Adam Sandler as Schecky Moskowitz in a plot so long we'll need a new paragraph to attempt to describe it.
General Noriega (Burt Young) is looking for material to shall we say 'indulge his ego' to when he finds a movie called The Unsinkable starring Schecky Moskowitz. The film then goes into a film where we see people get into a boat and Schecky breaks the fourth wall saying this is a no budget film with a loosely tied together plot then gets on the boat in a wacky way. Schecky wants to be a stand up comedian but he has no confidence and throughout his shifts as a worker on the boat he hangs out with his friend Bob who tries to help Schecky. Schecky is trying to work up the nerve to ask the ships comedian, Dickie Diamond, to let him open for him. On top of this, random clips of beauty pageant winners are asked questions. One asks Miss Australia how she thinks General Noriega smells, she replies with an answer that upsets him and he sends his two goons, who coincidentally also want to be stand up comedians to find her and kill her. She is on the ship and just said it and somehow the tape in itself is a live broadcast of the film we're watching. Then everything comes to a head and resolves itself.
Breath needed. This film is awful. And not in the so awful it's amazing you need to see this in the sense that the room was. More in the awful that 'if you rented this from a video store in the 90's you'd need a new VCR and TV to replace the one you just broke by watching this film' awful. Let's start tearing it apart by the plot. The plot is either the most meta thing Charlie Kaufman has ever done or one of the most incomprehensible pieces of film to hit since Solaris. In a way it makes sense and acknowledges that it is a loosely tied together story to start the film but just because it does that doesn't automatically make the film funny.
Another thing, comedy. It makes sense what this film was going for in the sense that everyone plays up their respective stereotype so we get a more grounded Schecky character and try to root for him but the thing is, his "jokes" aren't funny in any sense. They play like a bad shtick from the 50's that might have only gotten a smirk then. And the first part is so unbelievably bad, that any "comedy" that might come later on the film to give a smirk at is ruined by the death of comedy that we saw in the first half. The jokes are not seen from a mile away, but a galaxy away. It's not that stereotypes can't be funny. There are countless number of movies that prove this wrong, but just within this films running time, they're not in anyway.
Then the movie goes so far and enters Milton Berle. Milton Berle as a comedy zen god of sorts within Adam Sandler's mind that helps him gain his confidence. In what should be possibly the only funniest part of the film is ruined by a laugh anytime Milton talks. It's like he just looks to the left and laugh track A pops off followed by him saying something then laugh track B goes off. It's as if someone not only wanted to try the kill the art of comedy with this film, they wanted to bury it at sea.
Unfortunately on Rotten Tomatoes there's not enough to give it a rating, but with 4 reviews it's unanimous that critics don't like it with the only thing on the box quoted is something they came up with. Everything bad said about this though is echoed throughout eternity by every other critic and possible fan of comedy but it's still a passable movie for obvious reasons that Sandler had a career after this rough start. Plus he just provided additional material according to IMDB, so it just might have been some "jokes" here and there that could have been cut, who knows with scripts, especially ones with no budget. With that said, next time we'll look at Billy Madison.
As always that's my opinion, what's yours?