Netflix keeps adding millions of new customers and beating its targets on Wall Street. Even so, for many of us, it’s difficult to find a lot that’s actually worth watching on the streaming service, especially when it comes to their underwhelming batch of original movies. With a couple of exceptions, they’ve been pretty forgettable — or memorable in the wrong way. And while it’s hard to get too cross with a company that manages to crank out something as wonderfully weird as the recent Wild Wild Country, as of 2018, Netflix still somehow feels both essential and disappointing.
Over the past few years, one of the company’s biggest and splashiest investments on the movies side has been its partnership with Adam Sandler. The two signed a four-picture deal, which has resulted in The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, Sandy Wexler, and The Week Of (which arrives on the service Friday). There’s a consistency in that list, but not the kind you’d wish on your worst enemy. To be more blunt, these haven’t been good movies — and The Week Of doesn’t improve that batting average. But we live in an age of content. And the comedian provides that in spades. Maybe not surprisingly, Netflix renewed Sandler’s deal for four more films. God help us all.
I want to be clear, I’m not rabidly anti-Sandler. I loved him in Punch-Drunk Love and I thought he was excellent in last year’s The Meyerowitz Stories. I even kind of enjoyed the goofy Grown Ups movies. But so far all of the films in his Netflix deal feel pretty slight and dashed off – like he’s saving his A-material for the multiplex. The best that can be said about The Week Of is that it at least tacks some heart onto an otherwise stale, mothball-scented set-up. Directed by Sandler’s old Saturday Night Live pal and occasional collaborator Robert Smigel, The Week Of is essentially Sandler’s version of The Father of the Bride with him in the Spencer Tracy/Steve Martin role. The legacies of both of those men remain safe for now.
Sandler is Kenny Lustig, a put-upon Long Island contractor with a shrill, bellowing wife (the always-welcome Rachel Dratch) and a daughter (Allison Strong) who’s getting married in a week. Kenny is a proud, working-class guy who insists on paying for the wedding even though he tries to cut corners wherever he can. And the groom’s father (Chris Rock) is a successful L.A. surgeon who keeps offering to whip out his checkbook and help him out. Naturally, in the week leading up to the nuptials anything that can go wrong does: Elderly Uncle Seymour (Jim Barone) who lost his legs to diabetes needs to be carried everywhere, including the bathroom; the cut-rate hotel he’s booked for his new in-laws has a leaky ceiling; Kenny’s cousin (Steve Buscemi) cheaps out on the booze and eyes one of the bridesmaids; and Uncle Seymour winds up in the hospital during a bachelor party featuring strippers at a trampoline park.
With the exception of one race gag where Sandler just assumes that two black guys walking past his house are part of his new extended family and invites them in for pancakes, none of it is very hilarious. It feels like Smigel and Sandler just shot the first draft of their script without fine-tuning or polishing any of the jokes. Sandler does stressed-out-and-about-to-snap ticking nebbish time-bomb shtick as well as anyone. But you keep watching The Week Of thinking: I know this should be funny and I can imagine a world where it is funny, but it’s not funny.
What redeems the movie is the sentimental final stretch at the wedding reception when we get to understand just how many sacrifices Kenny has made for his family over the years and how much he loves them and how much they love him back regardless of all his craziness. Sandler taps into his inner softie and it pays off, making Rock’s character – a selfish, absentee father – realize just how much he’s missed out on all of these years and how it may not be too late to try harder. That all of this is scored to a sappy Billy Joel ballad, however, feels pretty consistent with the rest of the film. Even its schmaltziest feel-good moments find a way to pummel you over the head. C