Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #802: Sandler Crosses The Bay Line?

I'll start off with a confession.

I am not a fan of Adam Sandler.

I've always found his immature and occasionally violently angry man-child persona that he debuted on
Saturday Night Live kind of grating, and like many people I've made a point to avoid his big screen comedies even as he tries to build a new persona as a leading man in family and romantic comedies. I just can't bring myself to watch more than a few minutes, before the sense that this is all crap just overwhelms me and I have to tune out.

However, his movies are mostly profitable crap. He has a dedicated fan base that can guarantee him a $100-$160 million return on his comedies at the box office, followed by home video and TV sales. So as long as Sandler keeps their budgets in line Sony, his home studio, will give him whatever he wants.

And that's where the serious trouble begins.

Sandler is reportedly a very nice guy in person, and that he has great loyalty to his friends, and is using his position as Sony's golden boy to get movie deals for his friends through his company Happy Madison Productions.

Now Happy Madison Productions' output follows a very strict tier system. If it's got Adam Sandler starring in it, it's on the "A Tier," if it's Rob Schneider or Kevin James, it's the "B Tier," because they might actually sell enough tickets to make money. However, if it's got Nick Swardson, and/or Allan Covert then we're strictly talking "C Tier," because those films are pretty much guaranteed to make barely a ripple beyond the poor critics who were forced to see them in order to shit on them.

Which brings me to the subject I'd rather not talk about, but am forced to discuss.

Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star.

The film has been a failure on just about every level, especially with critics and audiences, scoring a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and failing to crack the Top Ten, despite its wide release and omnipresent and incredibly annoying ad campaign. Even though it reportedly cost less than $10 million to make, and about another $10-15 million to sell, it will probably still lose money, and its bad reputation and R-Rated subject matter will pretty much insure it doesn't get beyond the DVD discount bin or being late night filler on deep cable when
The Killer Shrews isn't available.

I'm sure the only reason Sony gave the film the green-light was to keep Sandler happy, and pretty much considered it a wash out from the beginning. In fact, I'm starting to suspect that the shrill, annoying, fingernails on a chalkboard ad campaign that highlighted just how unfunny, and unpleasant the movie is, was an act of mercy on the part of the studio.

While the studio will recover the $20-$30 million pissed away on the film, I think the damage to the people behind it will go even deeper.

Star and co-writer Nick Swardson can pretty much consider his career in comedy over. Any project he attempts will now have the specter of Bucky Larson hanging over it, and only some sort of miracle, like him curing cancer or defusing a rogue A-Bomb just as the timer hits 00:00:01 can possibly save it.

But I don't think Sandler himself will be as completely unscathed as he's been from all the other C-Tier Happy Madison boondoggles. His name is all over it, as Producer, Co-Writer, and all around midwife to the whole project. It couldn't exist without him, and it also crosses what I call The Bay Line.

The Bay Line is named after director and explosives enthusiast Michael Bay. It's the line where a filmmaker goes from insulting the audience's intelligence to insulting their existence. Bay's films only insult the audience's intelligence, not their existence, in fact, he goes out of his way to praise their existence. The audience forgives him his stupidities, and sits back to enjoy the visceral experience of robots beating the living shit out of each other while good looking people try to emote.

Bucky Larson crosses the Bay Line to actively insult the audience's existence. The title character is obviously mentally handicapped and/or mentally ill, is incredibly ignorant of even the most basic facts of life, and the only excuse they give for this is that he's from the Midwest, and imply that everyone there is like him to one degree or another.

That is called insulting the audience's existence, and the audience doesn't like that.

They'll let you insult their intelligence as long as you give them lowbrow laughs or big explosions, but insult their existence, and the audience will punish you, even if they don't consciously know that they are doing it.

Give Michael Bay a character from the Midwest and he'll be a iron jawed he-man, posing in front of an exploding building, his chiseled features glinting in the sun, telling how growing up on the farm made him strong and manly, as missiles zoom overhead.

Bay is smart, he knows that the bulk of his money comes from putting bums in seats in Flyover Country. So he makes sure not to insult the religious beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes, or nation of those ticket buyers.

Sandler seems to have forgotten that, and created a movie that only people who have spent too long in Hollywood could ever think was funny, or potentially successful. This could cost him dearly in the long run.

Now let's never speak of Bucky Larson ever again.


  1. I would like to know why anyone thought Buck Larson was even a good idea enough to GREENLIGHT?

  2. Sandler told Sony: "Greenlight my friend's movie or I'll take the comedies that make money to another studio."

    Simple case of too big to deny.

  3. Yet with a 33% rating Creature still had a worse BO opening.

  4. Correction Creature 11% on the tomatometer, but Bucky had 33% on audience who liked it. 1/3 of all movie goers thought this swill was passable.

  5. I want to cement this post in the internet archives so whenever I see anyone complaining about Bay, I can show them why he "works".

    Of course, it makes one wonder, how much bank a movie could earn if someone took the bay line AND didn't insult the audience's intelligence.

    Oh hi, Pixar!

  6. Are Friedberg/Seltzer and Tyler Perry movies borderline?

  7. ILDC--

    Friedberg/Seltzer are on the far end of the "insulting intelligence" spectrum, which is why they don't make Bay level scratch.

    As for Tyler Perry films, I'm sure they skirt the Bay line, but since they couch them in "moral lessons" they can get away with it.

  8. Greenlight my friend's movie or I'll take the comedies that make money to another studio."

    After looking at the script for Bucky I would have said, "This movie is shit, go ahead, let another studio lose money."

  9. Is Sandler really worth the huge paychecks? It looks like only a few movies broke even.

  10. Did you read this one about David Prouse getting no residuals from Return of the Jedi because it has made no money? http://www.slashfilm.com/lucasfilm-tells-darth-vader-that-return-of-the-jedi-hasnt-made-a-profit/

  11. ILDC- Sandler goes beyond simple box office. If they break even they win because they'll be rerun on basic cable until the day after doomsday. So that makes him worth it to the studio. If he's worth it to the real world is another story.

    Rainforest Giant- No movie has made any net profits since Disney's Splash, and that's only because Disney was having money troubles that year and couldn't afford to have the usual legions of studio accountants and lawyers to bury it.

  12. So the only thing that keeps studios alive is libraries?

  13. Or is it just making back money?

  14. Studios are famously giant liars about their income. And Bucky Larsen seems like it might be Jabootu-level ineptness. But I will never know, because bad comedies are really hard for me to get through. White Chicks almost gave me a cardiac infarction.

  15. And Bucky Larsen seems like it might be Jabootu-level ineptness.

    There's another acolyte of Jabootu around?!?!? Hail fellow church member!

    Anyway, I was thinking that on some level one might say that Waterboy crossed the Bay line - but it has some popularity. On the other hand, Waterboy did kind of feel like a good-natured ribbing, there wasn't really anyone that was that much "better" than the hicks in the film. In fact, the bad guys were the more "refined" people in that movie and they still talked with a thick drawl as well as got their come uppence. Wait a second... did Furious D just make a point about this earlier? Well there ya go, Master D. Who thought you'd have a concrete example in one person's filmography?

  16. I'm not just an acolyte, I'm the guy who reviewed the Herschell Gordon Lewis movies for the site. I have Ken (Jabootu's avatar) over to my house twice a year for a bad movie festival. Join us in the spring for Tween Fest 2012.