“The Ridiculous 6” is a really terrible movie.
You probably didn’t need me to tell you this, but there it is. If you’ve seen one of the movie’s stupefyingly dumb ads or have been paying attention to star Adam Sandler’s gradual downward spiral into self-loathing and undisguised laziness over the last decade or so, this will not come as a surprise. This is a movie where the comic nadirs include a donkey (the movie obsessively refers to it as a burro, for the writers seem to think the word burro itself is funny) with explosive diarrhea, not to mention Vanilla Ice throwing out hip-hop malapropisms while dressed as Mark Twain. As they say, feel free to pick your poison. And yet it’s still hard to overstate exactly how skin-crawlingly awful “The Ridiculous 6” ends up being. Mind you, I don’t particularly like going to the dentist, but at least my oral hygienist has the good sense not to crack lame-brained puns about “beaver breath” and refer to Native American women as “Poca-hot-tits” before putting me through a prolonged and painful procedure.
Now is probably a good time to mention that I’m without a doubt a fan of Sandler’s, in spite of the somewhat appalling direction his career has taken as of late. Sandler’s early films are disruptive frat boy salvos that are hilarious in spite of their poor taste and sloppy sentimentality — particularly the gloriously weird animal hallucination sequences in “Billy Madison,” or “Happy Gilmore,” which turns the impotent rage of a shitty golf game into comedy gold. They’re like the cinematic equivalent of a good, stupid punk record by NOFX or The Vandals: fast, cheap, dirty and silly, jacked up on aggressive insanity and just enough heart to make the grosser stuff go down easy.
Sandler’s weapon as a young comic was his oddly blank veneer of polite passive-aggression, the one outlined by the actor’s whispery tremble of a voice and Jewish boy-next-door looks. It was a comic temperament that could easily explode into outsized, sometimes frightening acts of violence. Sandler seemed to be working through something. In his early days, he was a genuinely interesting screen presence: an insolent class clown with a wicked temper, an insecure everyman with Jerry Lewis affectations and a knack for fisticuffs and silly voices. That Adam Sandler, sadly, is gone. He can’t even be bothered to make the silly voices anymore. In this new man’s place is someone who looks like Sandler, sounds like Sandler, acts like Sandler, but is decidedly not Adam Sandler. This new Sandler is a smug suburban dad, one who’s openly contemptuous of anyone who is not him: a man who looks at the world with the blank, all-consuming gaze of disinterest. New Sandler feels bottomless disdain for what he must surely believe is a moronic, undemanding audience who collectively deserve nothing more than middle school poop gags, shitty 80’s soft rock and cameos from the likes of Nick Swardson. This is the Adam Sandler of “The Ridiculous 6,” who wanders with a serial killer’s detached, sullen stare through an arid comic wasteland — the place where humor and good taste go to keel over and die.
We all knew Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Lovitz would show up in this travesty somewhere, but what about Luke Wilson, who was at one point one of the most intriguingly low-key leading men in American movies? Come to think of it, what’s Will Forte doing here? Forget about Steve Buscemi and John Turturro — they’re friends of Sandler’s. Then there’s Terry Crews, a performer blessed with such considerable talents that he actually managed to make fleeting moments of Sandler’s otherwise loathsome (and casually racist) “Blended” palatable. Don’t worry, though: for those who still need a reason to not watch the movie, (let’s face it, you’re probably out there) there’s racism aplenty in “The Ridiculous 6,” most of it being of the oblivious, antiquated Charlie Chan variety rather than anything truly calculated to hurt. Having now seen the movie, though, I can officially confirm that the reports of on-set walk-offs from Native American actors are entirely 100% justified. In an age where comedy is only getting more progressive — think Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” another Netflix import — and certain comedic authorial voices are doing their damndest to take strides towards a more colorblind, more unified comedic landscape, “The Ridiculous 6” is a colossal leap backwards, disguised as one endless rootin’-tootin’ fart joke. Here is a film that makes Seth MacFarlane’s limp-dick would-be farce “A Million Ways to Die in the West” look like the echelon of comic sophistication.
According to Sandler and longtime co-writer Tim Herlihy, the goal with “The Ridiculous 6” was (and I quote) to “make as funny a movie as possible” and also, helpfully, “as good a Western as possible.” Really dudes? Was THAT the goal? I mean, I guess I buy the funny part — not that “The Ridiculous 6” is in any way, shape or form amusing. Rather, I believe that Sandler and Herlihy find their endless barrage of fat jokes, jokes about hairy people, jokes at the expense of women and witless pratfalls intrinsically hilarious. I have a harder time believing the filmmaker’s defense about actually honoring the tradition of the cinematic Western. Call me cynical, but it sounds like lip service to me. The movie’s widescreen landscape shots look like they were all captured in two hours on the same rushed day. The blocking, staging and production design are on par with a bad porno movie. Director Frank Coraci (“Click,” “Blended”) is so graceless in his set-ups that he makes you yearn for the comparative competence of someone like Peter Segal (man, never thought I’d write that). And let’s not even really get into the “satire” excuse, which is nothing more than a cheap cop-out so that Sandler and the filmmakers can avoid all those thorny questions about misrepresentations of race — the ones that their film seems so flippantly uninterested in addressing. Can a movie that features Taylor Lautner as a cantaloupe-fucking redneck misfit with three nipples really be called satire? Personally, I’ve seen more satire in MAD Magazine.
On the extremely small chance that you are reading this piece, Mr. Sandler, I want to ask you: what happened? Why the dark air of disaffection? Do you still care? What happened to the puckish, high-energy clown who made us laugh in “The Wedding Singer”? Do you no longer feel like making funny movies? Surely you must feel that we deserve better than the poisonous likes of “Jack & Jill” and “Grown Ups”… right? On the basis of “The Ridiculous 6,” Mr. Sandler, I’m not so sure.
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