The problem with most recent Adam Sandler movies is they try too hard to be original. Given Adam Sandler’s enormously prolific output as a filmmaker – he produces and stars in at least seven and as many as twenty-two movies every year – it’s no surprise that he has long since run out of concepts worth basing an entire feature-length film upon. Sandler could easily solve this if he deigned to make more sequels and remakes, but aside from the breathtaking Grown Ups 2, he has so far refused to follow this route. Until now.
Credit the budding relationship between Netflix and Happy Madison Productions (Sandler’s production company) for the new direction. Netflix has proven expertise in rebooting older media properties that all but demand narrative extension. And so we are the lucky audience that gets to experience Matilda (2017) in the privacy of our homes.
The remake of 1990s classic based on the book by Roald Dahl stars Sandler as the titular young genius with magical telekinetic abilities. Sandler also plays the film’s antagonist, the pathologically cruel Miss Trunchbull. This is Adam Sandler doing what he does best – cross dressing and playing multiple roles which gives him the chance to do a crazy voice and channel his inner rage into outer shouts and screams. And of course, inhabiting a role of a character who doesn’t fit into the school she is forced to attend is a subtle nod back to the best film Sandler has ever made: Billy Madison. Thus, Sandler breathes new life into a classic, spawning an entirely new classic.
Though this movie is almost totally dominated from start to finish by Sandler’s bravura performance(s), it’s worth taking a moment to praise the talented supporting cast. Drew Barrymore shines as Miss Jennifer Honey. Forgive me if I noticed a spark of sexual chemistry between Miss Honey and Matilda in this version of the story.
Rob Schneider and David Spade are hilarious as Matilda’s gay married parents. All the jokes they make about sodomy and how funny it is for dudes to marry each other show that we are finally ready to laugh at a type of sexuality that was once universally denounced and scorned.
I won’t go so far as to say Matilda (2017) is a better film than its predecessor of twenty years past. It has bigger laughs, but a smaller heart. However, it is refreshing that Adam Sandler has finally made a movie worth watching again, even if the other eleven movies he has scheduled come out this year look like embarrassingly original misfires.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Matilda (2017) is decidedly better than Just Go with It, How About It, Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, Hotel Transylvania, Blended, Switched, Men, Women & Children, Pixels, Where My Dogs, The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, The Ding Dong Ditch, The King of Space, Minimart Gentlemen, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, Sandy Wexler, Martin Farter, Behavioral Therapy, Help Me with My Homework, Club Siberia, Everything That’s Wrong, Married to My Mom, Busted My Toe, Went the Wrong Way, You Don’t Know Darren, Are We Done Now, Don’t Drink the Milk, Not Quite Heaven, You Have the Right to Remain Groovy, and The Biggest House. But it’s still no Billy Madison or The Wedding Singer.” – Bevin Reinen, Vox
“The kind of silly, hacky, schlocky comedy that Sandler makes takes a kind of bravado, a kick-me vulnerability that comes closer to the terrifying core of cinematic risk than much of the ‘serious’ acting that passes for good and self-revealing.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Adam Sandler is back, baby, and he’s funnier than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“It’s better than Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2 but much worse than The Dude Upstairs, Shaken, How Far Down Can You Go, My Clock’s Broken and That’s Not All, We’re All Wearing Wigs Now, and The Lady and the Vamp.” – Shahrazad Kablan, Chicago Sun-Times
“What the fuck is wrong with Adam Sandler and Netflix why the fuck are doing this dear god” – Ida Rahayu, ScreenAnarchy
“Way better than the original, and the book as well.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline
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