The Do-Over (2016) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for violence, sexual material, graphic nudity, crude and sexual humor, and language
Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Paula Patton, Kathryn Hahn, Natasha Leggero, Torsten Voges, Sean Astin, Renee Taylor, Luis Guzman, Nick Swardson, Matt Walsh, Catherine Bell, Michael Chiklis
Cameo: Dan Patrick, Robert Smigel
Director: Steven Brill
Screenplay: Kevin Barnett, Chris Pappas
Review published May 30, 2016
Although I do hate many of his movies, I don't have a knee-jerk hate for Adam Sandler the way some critics might. In fact, I'm one of an incredibly small amount of critics who found The Ridiculous 6 occasionally amusing (the 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes should tell you enough ho2 that film has been received otherwise). That said, The Do-Over is a giant suck-fest, even as a Sandler vehicle gone straight to Netflix, the second in his four-movie deal to release his work exclusively on the streaming platform. At least you don't have to pay extra to see it, or leave your home, or even stick with the movie in favor of something better to watch on the service. Sadly for me, as a film reviewer, I'm obligated to stick with it to the bitter end.
The film starts off at a 25th high-school reunion where Charlie (Spade, Hotel Transylvania 2) meets up with an old friend named Max (Sandler), who seems to have far exceeded his initially dismal expectations in life in almost every respect by being the kind of "Action Jackson" globe-hopping alpha male every boy dreams of becoming. Max sees Charlie is in a loveless marriage to his philandering high-school crush (Leggero, Let's Be Cops), raising mischievous twin boys that humiliate him at every turn, is employed at a dead-end job managing an in-supermarket bank outlet, and lives a life that is in a perpetual state of stagnation -- he even drives the same car he's had since high school, and it was a lemon even then. After convincing Charlie to some out to his yacht for a weekend of fun and sun while his wife's away, Max ends up hatching a plan to fake their deaths and assume stolen new identities with some big shots who were living the high life in Puerto Rico before their untimely demise. However, with the new identities comes had guys out to get the men they're assuming to be, leading Max and Charlie to fight for their second lives.
The Do-Over reunites Sandler with director Steven Brill, who has made some of the comedian-turned-actor's worst cinematic efforts, Mr. Deeds and Little Nicky. Brill struggles to wrangle his two stars to stay on point as they explore juvenile humor involving getting laid, smoking joints, or other typical go-to gags to get easy, lazy laughs. Given that Sandler also serves as one of the film's producers, perhaps that's why much of the script by Kevin Barnett (Hall Pass) and Chris Pappas ("Unhitched") has been altered to include the typical jokes that thirteen-year-old boys find funny, even though the content is R-rated material. Yes, it's an Adam Sandler vehicle, so catering to his fan-base is expected, but the plot is overly complicated, and the persistent distractions for moments of stupid shtick makes it nearly impossible to remain invested enough in trying to follow it.
As we're not rooted in the backbone of the tale, this makes those scenes in which the plot takes over mind-numbingly boring, as we are neither entirely sure what's going on, nor, if we think we do, do we really care what happens. And yet, we don't long for more explanation for such a tired premise, such that movie actually fares better when it chooses to ignore the plot altogether. I suppose I'm both criticizing the film for not explaining its plot, but also thankful it doesn't bother to try to give us more of it. In addition to the typical gross-out moments or the silly sexual shenanigans, there are also some uncomfortably brash scenes involving Max's mother's dementia, as well as a woefully out-of-place McGuffin surrounding the search for a cure for cancer. There are actual moments in which we're supposed to feel a certain pathos for at least one character who is afflicted, but it's difficult to feel anything at all when they're sandwiched in between moments involving David Spade getting Luis Guzman's testicle sweat in his face during a three-way sex scene, or in Adam Sandler trying to instill gay panic in the sadistic assassin who is about to sodomize him with a gear shift peppered with bits of broken glass.
The action scenes aren't especially presented in the most exciting of ways possible, which is forgivable in most comedies that have occasional shootouts or chases, but not as much in one that's encroaching already on two hours in length. Given how entertaining, even if only mildly, the scenes involving Max trying to get his old buddy Charlie out of his life rut, and how boring the film is once they do cross over to new identities and become instant targets, it's especially disappointing given that Sandler and company had the chance to make something better if he were to stick to his initial set-up about a second chance in life without mucking it up with a dumb thriller plot, and run with this mid-life crisis angle for the rest of the film. It's been done before, sure, but maybe only a tenth of the time as the kind of Hitchcockian plotting that The Do-Over ends up utilizing after the explosion literally destroys Sandler's yacht, and figuratively does his movie.
The best thing I can say for The Do-Over is that it does offer an occasional chuckle, mostly in the film's beginning, before the new-identity plot really kicks in. Some of the scenes set in Puerto Rico showcase the beauty of the island, as is typical of recent Sandler films, as he has readily admitted that he often chooses movies that double as vacations for him and his cronies. You'll yearn for the director to just continue showcasing the gorgeous locales of the Caribbean every time he cuts back to showing the sulking mugs of the main stars, especially as they truly have so very little humor to offer that they haven't done before, and what they do deliver ranks among some of the weakest in already spotty careers in film comedies. One can see why the stars chose this material, since it's about as stuck in the 1980s as they are. Perhaps it's time for the real-life Adam Sandler and David Spade to fake their deaths and live the rest of their lives on whatever tropical island they choose. No need for a 'do-over' -- just don't do any more of these.
©2016 Vince Leo