THE LOVE THAT DARES TO SPEAK HIS NAME

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I love Adam Sandler, and I’m proud of it. Can I possibly be the only person with highbrow credentials who thinks he’s adorable and touching and possesses the widest range of any actor save Dustin Hoffman?

I’m sick of movie critics and culture vultures picking on Adam. “Man-child persona” wrote a menacing New York Times critic—like that’s a crime.

I chortled during Bedtime Stories, where he’s a handyman who tells his niece and nephew tales that come to life. (Adam jokes he made the film because he didn’t want his kids to see degenerate filth, then he realized he was talking about his own movies.)

Are you wondering how old I am? Well, yes, some part of me is 11. I hope I grow by adding layers (like a tree trunk), not by subtracting them.

Being in touch with the child you once were is a sign of artistic sensibility. And though Sandler’s movie persona is frequently that of an adolescent in a man’s body, he shapes up—in Big Daddy, he becomes a great dad to a child left on his doorstep.

Susan Braudy

Susan Braudy

So, nerdy critics, Sandler’s movies resonate liberal values—even if he derides these values in punch lines and mumbly asides. Even the aesthetically correct New Yorker conceded Adam’s excellence in Reign Over Me, where he plays a man whose family was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

His film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry  uses yuks to convey a message of compassion for gay people. How he shines in the scene where he is extravagantly hugged by Ving Rhames, the huge, muscled black actor, while Rhames comes out to Adam. Sandler’s face is a subtle, world-class symphony of creeped-out irony and compassion—Tom Cruise couldn’t accomplish this even if it were the only way to avoid being burned at the stake.

Furthermore, I have to believe that Sandler is a better role model for young people than, say, Clint Eastwood, who routinely shoots ‘em up, blows ‘em up and smashes ‘em up. In fact except for the family killed in the 9/11 backstory of Reign Over Me, I can’t recall much violence chez Sandler at all. His You Don’t Mess with the Zohan  shows deeper diplomatic skills vis-à-vis the Middle East than George Bush and Henry Kissinger combined.

Also: Sandler doesn’t appear to be about making money. He’s an auteur, dammit. I say critics are hissy and pissy because Sandler bypasses print media to publicize his movies on TV. Don’t critics remember Adam playing Opera Man on Saturday Night Live? He waved a hanky and sang grace notes in flawless falsetto, substituting silly, dirty lyrics for some unintelligible Italian words that buffs adore. I collapsed laughing.

Sometimes Adam’s too raw—like when he told David Letterman his father called him a moron. Artists are like that. He seemed raw when on Saturday Night Live he played a kid on a phone being dumped by a girl.

One macho friend of mine analyzed critics’ discomfort with Sandler: “He shows too much vulnerability. He’s the nice kid you wanted to beat up in the schoolyard because he seemed on the verge of tears.”

I once cornered one of Sandler’s producers. “I think Adam Sandler’s a genius,” I said.
“He’s a nice man,” disagreed the producer.

I wish I’d shouted it’s a miracle that Adam Sandler stays vulnerable and “nice” in the producer’s blood-soaked, dog-eat-dog world.

Author and journalist Susan Braudy’s most recent book is The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, published by Alfred Knopf. Her email address susanbraudy@att.net.

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