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Filmgoers should mourn Adam Sandler’s lack of effort

Remember when Adam Sandler actually tried?

Remember when his comedy focused on creating wacky, memorable characters both on “Saturday Night Live” and in film? If his recent output is any indication, this desire has all but disappeared. This Friday marks the release of his latest film, “Jack & Jill,” in which he plays both the typical T-shirt wearing Sandler type, as well as his twin sister. That’s right: Sandler plays both the male and female leads.

This is a premise that barely has the strength to support a five-minute sketch. In typical recent Sandler fashion, he will prolong the agony into a feature film. Sandler’s films have never had the most sophisticated sense of humor, and they seemed strained when stretched to 90 minutes or more, but “Jack & Jill” has is the epitome of comedic laziness. This is what happens when a comedian reaches his creative nadir.

It’s more frustrating because Sandler has shown in bits and spurts just how great he can be when he actually goes for something. Sandler’s performance in the 2002 drama/comedy “Punch-Drunk Love” was widely lauded, and even in some of his weaker work, there have been flashes of greatness.

One of the most notable came with Judd Apatow’s film “Funny People,” in which Sandler gave a brilliant performance which mirrored his own Hollywood personality and even half-referenced his own film projects. His character in that film was famous for many sophomoric mainstream comedies not unlike Sandler, and none of the premises presented in “Funny People” were any more ridiculous than that of “Jack & Jill.” In many ways, this latest film only further shows his decline into full-on self-parody.

This is not restricted to the films in which Sandler stars. With his production company Happy Madison, he has put his stamp of approval on several other comedies that are as unfunny as they are lazy. If a bad David Spade or Rob Schneider movie has been released in the last 15 years, chances are Sandler played a major part in its production. Besides “Jack & Jill,” Happy Madison’s most recent atrocity was the Nick Swardson vehicle “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.” Directed by Tom Brady, this film received a rare zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and it made only $2.5 million at the box office worldwide. And no, this is not the quarterback Tom Brady, who likely would have made a better movie.

What’s most troubling is that Sandler doesn’t seem to put much effort into his recent garbage. By and large, the characters he plays barely qualify as “characters.” Take, for example, “Just Go With It,” in which he mostly stood idly and cast incredulous looks at everyone around him. There’s still a great comic to be found in Sandler, but if “Jack & Jill” is all he has to offer right now, there is reason to mourn a career that never reached its full potential.

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