Lasciate ogne speranza, voi chi’intrate. How did it come to this? At the height of his power in Hollywood in 1999, Adam Sandler founded his own production company as a way to continue making the movies he enjoys. Over the years his films have slowly morphed into a pariah on the landscape of big budget studio comedies, becoming thinly veiled excuses for lavish vacations. But do they truly represent the nadir in the career of one of comedy’s once-brightest stars? Are there any hidden or underrated gems? Is there such a thing as too few fart jokes? Will I retain any sense of sanity by the end of this? Join me and find out, as we venture to the Happy Valley.
I set out on this project not to simply pan a bunch of bad films but to investigate a unique phenomenon in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. As fun as it can sometimes be to dunk on a terrible movie experience, I felt like I’d be doing a disservice to myself and to the legacy of Happy Madison if I didn’t look for the bright spots or, at least, put each film into context.
I don’t know what the future will hold for the production company, or this essay series, but I hope you’ve enjoyed going on this journey with me. Thank you to Evan Dossey and everyone at Midwest Film Journal for encouraging me every week and providing a home for this very specific brand of insanity. Thank you to my wife for watching most of these films with me (yes, especially Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star). Thank you to Dave Gutierrez, Greg Lindberg and Mitch Ringenberg for joining me in all our roundtable discussions. And thank you to you, the reader, for taking the time out of your day to read these essays every week.
Below is a comprehensive, indisputable, peer-researched ranking of all 46(!) Happy Madison films in order of how much I’d like to purge the memory of it from my consciousness — from “I’m available this Tuesday for a lobotomy, thank you” to “Hey, I had fun!”: