VOD SQUAD: Adam Sandler romances Jennifer Hudson in 'Sandy Wexler' on Netflix

It’s a week of comedies.

First up is the latest from Adam Sandler, who continues his partnership with Netflix with Sandy Wexler, a romcom co-starring Oscar winning actor-singer Jennifer Hudson. Meanwhile, geeky teenagers seek revenge against their Mean Girls tormentors in the high school comedy The Outcasts. Last and most certainly not least, Jerrod Carmichael delivers his second HBO stand-up special with Jerrod Carmichael: 8.

Sandler and Hudson go for broke

Adam Sandler has been a boon for Netflix, which signed him to a four-picture deal in 2014. His first two movies, The Ridiculous 6 and The Do-Over rapidly racked up viewership to become two of Netflix’ biggest hits.

How happy were the suits at Netflix? So happy, they’ve signed Sandler for another four films.

Sandler’s latest romp Sandy Wexler is a showbiz satire with the heart of a romantic comedy.

Co-written by Sandler, Paul Sado and Dan Bulla, Sandy Wexler is set in the 1990s and features Sandler as a Los Angeles talent manger who represents an assortment of oddballs who make a living of sorts on the fringes of the entertainment industry.

That is until Sandy finds a remarkably talented singer (Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson) who works at an amusement park. He knows real talent when he sees it – and he falls head over heels for the unassuming warbler.

Sandy Wexler boasts appearances by a remarkable mix of comedians and actors including Kevin James, Terry Crews, Rob Schneider, Colin Quinn, Jane Seymour, Dana Carvey, Nick Swardson, Pauly Shore, Conan O’Brien, Vanilla Ice and Arsenio Hall.

The film will be available Friday exclusively on Netflix.

The nerds strike back!

Teeenage angst was never as cute or appealing as in The Outcasts, a rousing anti-bullying comedy that's a cross between Revenge of the Nerds and Mean Girls.

The Outcasts features Eden Sher (Star vs. the Forces of Evil) and Victoria Justice (Eye Candy, Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101) as best friends Mindy and Jodi, a pair of high school students who have been tormented and bullied for years by their school’s self-appointed queen of mean Whitney (Claudia Lee).

Directed by Peter Hutchings, who is best known for his screenplay for The Last Keepers, the comedy chronicles Mindy and Jodi’s long, difficult quest to unite the school’s various outcast groups and stage a revolution against the popular kids.

Peyton List (Bunk'd, Jessie), who stars as one of Whitney’s henchwomen Mackenzie recently told Teen Vogue there hasn’t been a teen film as fresh and vibrant as Mean Girls in some time.

“It’s surprisingly something that hasn’t been done in awhile,” she said. “every decade there’s a new iconic one.”

So are Mackenzie and Whitney really all that nasty?

“[They are] so awful!” List, 19, told the magazine.

“They quote Stalin and Hitler. They’re just terrible and you hate them.”

The Outcasts will begin a limited theatrical release on Friday (locally it’ll be at AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24 only), but it also will be released on the same day on VOD and on most streaming video sites. It is due on DVD on May 16.

And don’t forget about Jerrod

The comedy continues this week with Jerrod Carmichael: 8, a stand-up special starring the brilliant 30-year-old comic Jerrod Carmichael, which aired last month on HBO. It is now available on VOD, streaming and digital download.

Filmed by fellow comedian and actor Bo Burnham during Carmichael’s show at the New York Masonic Hall's Grand Lodge Room, the one-hour special is Carmichael’s second HBO special following the 2014 Spike Lee-directed Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store.

This is a must-see for fans of NBC's The Carmichael Show, which returns for its third season on May 31.

NETFLIX. Jennifer Hudson and Adam Sandler in Netflix' 'Sandy Wexler'.




SANDY WEXLER REVIEW

If anyone might have thought that Adam Sandler’s eight-picture deal with Netflix meant that the once golden boy of film comedies was going to be making his comeback, his first two films to come from that deal have unanimously proven otherwise. Instead of making legitimately funny, unique films again, Sandler has instead filled each one with the same ingredients.

As a result, films like The Ridiculous Six and The Do-Over have felt like the equivalent of what might happen if a child threw a couple half-baked recurring comedic gags, the same bundle of comedic actors, and a printed out computer desktop background into a sandbNow Sandler returns with his third Netflix film, Sandy Wexler. It’s a 2 hour and 10 minute long film character study based on Sandler’s longtime real-life talent manager, and the formation of their relationship. The most surprising thing about Sandy Wexler too, is that it’s probably the best film Sandler has made in years, though, that’s not necessarily saying much when those other titles include films like Pixels and The Cobbler. In all actuality, Sandy Wexler is only slightly funnier than either of his previous Netflix outings, with one or two memorable on screen gags, and a central romance that feels - brace yourself - legitimately earned.

Set in the early 1990s, Sandy Wexler follows the life of its titular character as he manages and gets increasingly more obscure gigs for his strange array of clients. The roster includes a lousy stand-up comedian (Colin Quinn) who thinks he’s better than he is, a ventriloquist (Kevin James) who’s not the best or worst at what he does, and a stuntman (Nick Swardson) who can’t help but crash into birds every time he tries jumping over something.

We’re introduced to Sandy one morning when, while walking the streets of Los Angeles, he attempts to convince Arsenio Hall to be his new client. The attempt results in Hall declining, but the motto that Wexler uses in his pitch to him ends up laying groundwork the heart and soul of the entire film. “Agents are business,” Sandy says, “but managers are family.” It’s a mission statement he carries with him everyday, and it’s the reason he’s able to convince Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson) to let him represent her, after he coincidentally hears her singing during an “Ugly Duckling” performance at an amusement park. It’s not long before Courtney’s talents start to shine through, and as her star power grows, so does the mutual attraction. Time and circumstance drive Courtney and Sandy apart throughout the film’s decade-long timespan.

While no one would ever accuse Jennifer Hudson and Adam Sandler of being a hallmark on-screen couple, or that they have much chemistry either, Sandy Wexler shines the most when the two characters are together. So when the two spend a significant amount of the film’s second act away from each other, the film noticeably drags because of it. At 2 hours and 11 minutes, the film also feels far too self-congratulatory and unnecessary.

Predictably, Sandler winds up being the weakest part of the whole film. His annoyingly affected voice as Sandy is often hard to listen to, especially when the film tries to dig deep enough to pull at the heartstrings. But Sandler has proven before that he’s best on screen only when he’s playing a lovable but irritable goofball, which Paul Thomas Anderson wisely used to his advantage in Punch Drunk Love.

The funniest moment of the entire film comes early on when Sandler has to tap into that latter ability, as Sandy’s anger and irritation with an incompetent sound engineer builds and builds until he’s hitting him over the head and shouting loud enough for even Courtney to tell that something’s wrong from inside her sound booth. It’s possibly the funniest thing Sandler has done on screen in years, and feels like something more at home in his more classic movies, like Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer. It’s one of a handful of times during Sandy Wexler when it’s almost impossible not to break out into a grin because of the wholehearted absurdity of the whole thing.

More than anything else, however, Sandy Wexler more or less succeeds at what it wants to do because of how it lovingly portrays its lead character. I’d hesitate in calling Sandy Wexler a good or even competent movie, but at the very least, it has the makings of being one, which is a step back in the right direction for Sandler moving forwards.

The Verdict
Saying Sandy Wexler is the best film Adam Sandler has made or co-written in a long time isn’t much of a compliment. Yet, this new Netflix comedy (if you can call it that) is one of the sweetest additions to his filmography. Thankfully, Wexler feels like it actually knows what it wants to say. If only it had been able to avoid fumbling its articulation of that along the way.
ith the artistic freedom given to him by his eight-picture Netflix deal, Adam Sandler has made his All That Jazz. The puerile comic despised by most critics wears his heart on his sleeve for Sandy Wexler’s very-long-for-an-Adam-Sandler-movie run time of two hours and 10 minutes. The result borders on outsider art, with scenes that stretch way past their warranty, and a tone that wobbles from immature slapstick to inelegant, spasmodic tugs at the heartstrings.


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And yet there is something so authentic in this film that once you get past the annoying voice and some of the dreadfully unfunny side characters, it is disarmingly sweet and even occasionally clever. I would never go so far as to call Sandy Wexler a good movie, but it is a unique one, and strangely likable. Besides, if every name in Hollywood is willing to show up for a cameo, what does it say about you if you can’t have a laugh?

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