Expectations are dismal for Adam Sandler movies, and anything that isn’t a complete disaster feels like a success. This goes double for his collaborations with Netflix, which has brought us such hot messes as The Ridiculous 6, Sandy Wexler, and The Do-Over. His latest for Netflix, the wedding comedy The Week Of, isn’t a good movie by any conventional standards, but it manages to clear the very low bar Sandler has set for himself.
Starring Sandler as the father of the bride, Kenny, and co-starring Chris Rock as the father of the groom, Kirby, The Week Of chronicles the days leading up to the impending nuptials of their characters’ children and the myriad of problems that arise as their families come together for the ceremony. Directed by Robert Smigel from a script he co-wrote with Sandler, the film boasts a surprising amount of talent.
The cast is comprised of great character actors like Rob Morgan (Stranger Things, Mudbound) and Rachel Dratch (SNL) as well as Happy Madison regulars like Sandler’s wife, Jackie, and sportscaster Dan Patrick, not to mention Steve Buscemi, who fits into both these categories. Smigel, meanwhile, is nothing short of a comedy legend at this point. He created Saturday Night Live’s Saturday TV Funhouse and was instrumental in the early days of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the short-lived cult favorite The Dana Carvey Show. Which is to say nothing of his most famous creation of all, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. To top it all off, Smigel also co-wrote You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, which some say endures as Sandler’s last funny movie.
The Week Of is Smigel’s first feature film as a director, and if it’s any indication of things to come, he should probably stick to writing. The movie has almost no sense of pacing, and it’s visually static in a way that’s so egregious, Smigel makes Judd Apatow look like Alfred Hitchcock. There’s barely even any music to liven up the movie’s listless style, with Smigel moving rotely from one scene to the next, using cue cards which tell us the days of the week to propel the story forward. By the time the movie does arrive at the climax—a tearful conversation between Kenny and his daughter, Sarah (Allison Strong), I didn’t realize we’d reached the high point of the action until it was over.
Let’s talk about that tearful conversation though, because it embodies the curious, contradictory instincts at play in The Week Of. As anyone who read my review of Sandler’s previous, non-Happy Madison Netflix film, The Meyerowitz Stories knows, I’m a big fan of serious Sandler. When the man actually drops the stick and commits, he’s a fine actor. The Week Of does not give us that Sandler, but it doesn’t give us zany, broad Sandler either. Instead, the film is one of his rare in-between performances, like what we get in The Wedding Singer or Click. Kenny is hapless and prone to fits of rage, but his desire to give his daughter a great wedding with limited means makes him more likable than other Sandler protagonists.
It’s that tearful moment at the end, however, that makes Sandler’s performance noteworthy, and which adds another layer to The Week Of. As Sandler has gotten older, and continued to offer new versions of the same movie, seemingly as an excuse to hang out with his friends, he’s also appeared more miserable on-screen. In his worst films, he looks like he’d rather be doing anything than acting. He may not exactly be swinging for the fences with The Week Of, but at least the role lets him show his age and maturity.
Rock has a lot less to do here. He’s never been a great actor, but as he’s gotten older too, he’s grown into a talented filmmaker. But while it’s always interesting to see what Rock’s going to do next at this stage in his career, Sandler and Smigel are clearly more interested in Kenny’s storyline than Kirby’s. A successful surgeon who is estranged from his ex-wife and kids, Kirby is contrasted as the rich workaholic to Kenny’s poor family man. But the film never does convincingly answer why Kenny refuses to accept Kirby’s offer to help pay for the wedding, and The Week Of waits till right before its tearful climax to have Kenny and Kirby spell out their dynamic for the audience.
The strange thing is that despite Kenny and Kirby being opposites, they never come to blows. The movie isn’t about culture clash or warring in-laws. For the most part, everybody gets along. Again, the plot mainly revolves around Kenny’s struggle to keep the wedding from being a total disaster, and that too feels fairly low in conflict. Movies in this subgenre like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Meet the Parents are funnier because they are propelled by higher stakes.
There’s some crude, slightly ageist humor here, but nothing as glaringly offensive as in some of Sandler’s previous work. The problem with the script is mostly tonal. Sweet, warm-hearted moments are immediately undercut by gags involving giant candy bars or an uncle with no legs. By the time Sandler shows up in drag at the end, I was ready to knock my rating down a half a star.
So, why did I kind of like this movie? Or at least, why didn’t I hate it? Because grading on a huge curve, The Week Of is also a huge step up for Sandler. To say the least, it’s watchable, which, for Happy Madison and Netflix, appears to be more than enough.
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