Adam Sandler's "The Ridiculous 6" Is Only Half Bad

There are two types of Adam Sandler detractors. Type A hates the comedian for making terrible, lazy movies. Considering recent soul-flattening output like “Blended” and “Pixels,” this is not an unreasonable position.

Type B also hates Sandler for making terrible, lazy movies, but mostly out of love. Because they know he’s gifted enough to do better.

History will smile on Type B – and perhaps even Adam Sandler, one day – because good movies tend to endure and bad ones don’t. And Sandler has taken part in enough good ones that the (admittedly humongous) trash heap of unconscionably bad comedies bearing his name will eventually rot away, leaving gems like “Punch-Drunk Love” and “The Wedding Singer” and (the first half of) “Funny People” as his legacy.

Netflix’s “The Ridiculous 6” – an intermittently racist and dubiously paced Western spoof – won’t be among them, lying awkwardly in between the comedian’s best and worst work. It’s a bad movie and a frequently unwatchable one, but for the first time in years Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy have bothered to write real, actual jokes.

This unexpected development – combined with a performance from “Twilight” actor Taylor Lautner that’s both historically bad and screamingly funny – confuses the State Of Sandler more than ever. Whom, exactly, is the real Adam Sandler? The disinterested oaf who made “Pixels?” Or the very nearly engaged person behind “The Ridiculous 6?”

The following things are all actually in the movie: cinematography from the Dean Semler, the man who shot action classic “The Road Warrior.” Harvey Keitel beating up Luke Wilson. Adam Sandler decapitating Harvey Keitel. A variety of Native American characters with profoundly offensive names (Beaver Breath among them). Steve Buscemi smearing another character’s smegma on his lips. Rapper Vanilla Ice playing Mark Twain. Rob Schneider going to great lengths to prove why he’s the most unlikable comedic actor of his generation.

None of these things are particularly funny, but they’re there and all weirdly memorable, more that can be said of anything Sandler has done in half a decade.

What is funny? Certainly not the story. It follows a Native American-raised white man named Tommy Stockburn (Sandler) as he sets off to rescue his long-lost father (Nick Nolte) from a group of bandits. Along the way he meets his father’s five illegitimate sons (Luke Wilson, Taylor Lautner, Jorge Garcia, Terry Crew, and Rob Schneider), all of whom want nothing more than to meet their dad.

Most of the picture’s laughs come from one of three sources. The pairing of Will Forte and Steve Zahn as two of the aforementioned bandits is nearly magical. Even with limited screentime they make a terrific duo and it’s a wonder they’ve never been paired together before.

Secondly, John Turturro’s cameo as Abner Doubleday (the mythical “inventor” of baseball) is clever, and even though the scene goes on far too long (as does the film), it brings with it a healthy dose of laughter.

Thirdly, Taylor Lautner’s performance as Lil’ Pete, Stockburn’s mentally-handicapped half-brother is everything. It’s appalling, distasteful, and almost always hilarious, signifying an actor who will do just about anything onscreen to stay relevant. And isn’t that the best kind?

Long passages of the movie are predictably dreadful (anything involving Rob Schneider is an immediate dead end) and Frank Coraci’s direction is characteristically dull. Nonetheless, there’s a strange magic in the absolutely bonkers cast, manifesting itself at the unlikeliest of times – like when a decapitated Harvey Keitel goes on a mass-shooting rampage. It’s a stupid joke that the cast manages to sell to the point of near hysteria.

Adam Sandler continues his strange streak of playing things straight (he gets exactly zero laughs here) but he’s surrounded by enough nuttiness that it nearly works. It all makes for an unexpected curio for the long-lost Sandler fan in all of us, no matter how deep it’s buried.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Mediocre)

Release Date: December 11, 2015
Studio: Netflix
Director: Frank Coraci
Screenwriter: Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy
Starring: Adam Sandler, Taylor Lautner, Terry Crews, Nick Nolte, Jorge Garcia, Luke Wilson, Rob Schneider, Steve Zahn, Will Forte, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Danny Trejo, Nick Swardson, David Spade
MPAA Rating: Not Rated