You may not believe me when I write this, but then again you may find it incredibly easy to believe given what has come before. The Do-Over is arguably Adam Sandler’s best film in close to a decade, and I mean that with complete sincerity. It’s nowhere near perfect (not by a long shot), but compared to complete misfires The Ridiculous Six and Blended, The Do-Over might as well be heralded as fine art. That is, as long as your idea of fine art includes watching a grown man perform fellatio on his fingers in order to please the sexual desires of a heartbroken, homosexual biker.
Charlie McMillan (David Spade) is living the life most people dread. Now decades away from his youth, Charlie is still driving the same car he had in high school, working at the same bank within a grocery store, and his wife, the former prom queen (Natasha Leggero), walks all over him. On the night of their high school reunion, Charlie bumps into his old best friend Max (Adam Sandler), and the two quickly hit it off. Charlie tells of his mundane life, while Max explains how he’s become an FBI agent who isn’t afraid to pull a trigger whenever necessary. It’s clear Charlie envies his long lost friend, which is probably why he doesn’t hesitate to drop everything when Max asks him to hang out several days later. The two climb about a yacht, drive to the middle of the ocean, and pass out—or at least that’s what Charlie believes has happened.
The very next day, Charlie awakes to find himself bound to a bed in a hotel room he doesn’t recognize. Max, sitting just feet away, greets his friend and explains that he has solved all their problems by faking their deaths. Max has also secured them both new names by lifting identification from a pair of corpses, as well as their belongings. The items included lead the pair to Puerto Rico, where they uncover a large sum of money and an even larger house, but things turn from great to terrible when Charlie and Max realize their new names are connected to men who are wanted by a group of assassins that will stop at nothing to ensure they are dead.
If anything can be inferred from the entirety of Sandler’s career in film it’s that the aging funnyman has a penchant for high-concept comedy, and The Do-Over is certainly no exception. As soon as Charlie and Max realize their lives are in danger it becomes clear there is more to Max and the story behind the pair’s new names than Charlie was originally led to believe. A lot more, in fact, and The Do-Over clips along at a steady pace thanks to a consistent series of reveals that arise nearly every time the comedy falls flat. The film desperately wants to deliver an action-comedy that isn’t afraid of a little bloodshed, but it is Sandler’s own endearing love of juvenile humor that prevents that idea from coming to fruition as well as it should.
Speaking of comedy, the jokes in The Do-Over run the gamut from chuckle-worthy to so bad you fear they will deflate the entire production. The chemistry between Sandler and Spade is palpable throughout—and it’s really their friendship that makes the weakest moments bearable—but even as they both approach fifty years of age they cannot resist the urge to embody their inner teenagers whenever possible. From gags involving sweaty testicles and three-ways, to the aforementioned finger fellatio, the implicit homoeroticism of rectal torture, and a consistent effort to sleep with every woman in a low-cut shirt (otherwise known as every woman in the film), nothing is off limits, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. The film’s best gags come from reveals of just how miserable Charlie’s life actually is, but sadly those moments are vastly outweighed by pointless asides and dick jokes.
The most surprising element of The Do-Over is David Spade’s performance, which is also one of the best things the film has going for it. Charlie is the opposite of everything one might call Spade’s brand. He’s a quiet, weak man who would rather take a beating than ever say an unkind word. His presence in the film is void of Spade’s signature smart-ass shtick, and his appearance brings about a real sense of empathy from the moment the film begins. You know Charlie deserves better before he does, and part of you is always rooting for him to realize just how great he could be. Considering this is all conveyed by a man who until now had to wear a dime store mullet wig to get top billing, you cannot help feeling as if David Spade is due for a second, perhaps far different, wind in his career.
Sandler, on the other hand, is as much himself as you might expect. Aside from his character’s ridiculous combat skills, Sandler walks through The Do-Over as if he is walking through his own home. This is the second movie in a four film deal he has with Netflix, and the knowledge he can pretty much do anything at this point and get away with it seems to have gone to his head in the worst possible way. Instead of pushing the envelope, Sandler is getting more and more comfortable playing to the same dwindling audience that’s followed him up to this point. He knows titles like Jack And Jill and Don’t Mess With The Zohan were not hits, but millions of people still saw them, and millions of people will see this film as well. Until that viewership hits some significant low I don’t know if we will ever see another side of Adam Sandler. Considering the creative brilliance he displayed two decades back, that is a major bummer.
What separates The Do-Over from the majority of Sandler’s films is that actions have actual, sometimes horrific, consequences. This is a refreshing change of pace, but one that the production team at Happy Madison is ill-equipped to handle. As Charlie and Max uncover the truth behind their new identities and the body count continues to rise, the film constantly struggles to find a tone that works. Director Steven Brill (Mr. Deeds) does bring a sense of coherency to the proceedings that hasn’t always been present in Sandler vehicles, especially in moments where action occurs. That said, his technical proficiency is wasted on a script that falls short of his skill level. Brill directing The Do-Over might as well be Da Vinci drawing stick figures. The craftsmanship is undeniable, but the art itself is forgettable.