How Adam Sandler and David Spade Cured Cancer in Netflix's 'The Do-Over'
Happy Madison Productions' queasy, cerebral comedic thriller points toward America's uncertain future.
Diggity diggity damn! At Inverse, the release of a new straight-to-Netflix Adam Sandler feature film is an in-office holiday. Coming as it did just in time for a federal holiday weekend, the release of The Do-Over, Sandler’s second feature for the streaming service, is a true gift. We previously unpacked Sandler’s first venture under his four-picture Netflix deal, Ridiculous 6, which was roundly panned for its front-to-back racism and two-plus-hour runtime.
The latest Happy Madison Production is a madcap, twist-filled buddy comedy: a totally different animal than the overstuffed, cameo-riddled 6. You have to hand it to Sandler for delivering some variety. Today, ‘verse staffers Goble, Cook-Wilson, and Hutchinson get to the bottom of what the hell happened in the Spade/Sandler vehicle, which risks Inception-levels of plot complexity, while keeping busy hitting new lows in terms of sexual politics.
Winston Cook-Wilson: We could spend this whole piece just trying to parse out what happens in this movie. Never has a Sandler movie asked so much from the viewer, and I have to say, never has one kept me so much on the edge of my seat. How did we get from a comedy about middle-aged losers trying to change their depressing lives to an action drama about crooked pharmaceutical companies? How did this happen? How did it feel to watch, Corban?
Corban Goble: There’s a long Paula Patton/Kathryn Hahn fight scene — I really have no idea how those characters got to that place, or why Kathryn’s Hahn’s character was wearing a black wig the entire movie, or if we had accidentally switched to another movie while I was looking at a Slack message (Hahn plays Sandler’s wife, but he says he’s his “crazy ex-girlfriend” for some reason). I looked over at Winston halfway through cuz about half of the plot is Amazon’s Mad Dogs. There are a lot of characters in this movie and they all have some kind of weird affliction, whether it’s Nick Swardson’s FBI agent moonlighting as an AMEX debt collector or Max’s mom who has dementia but clearly remembers the time she showed her boobs to Charlie. There’s a lot of jokes about butt stuff, as in “putting things in your butt.” Sean?
Sean Hutchinson: For real, this is the best thriller about the darker side of big pharma since The Fugitive. Instead of Provasic we get … some miracle-drug-cancer-cure in The Do-Over. But I didn’t realize that it had anything to do with that until about 90 minutes into the thing. I was too busy trying to figure out what it all meant. The convoluted plot makes this like Sandler’s Memento for sure. It makes as much sense if you watched it either backwards or forwards. It’ll probably alienate a lot of the normal Sandler audience, but there’s enough of his patented brand of bro’d out sexism to get laughs. You know once Sandler’s character, named Max Kessler, otherwise known as Maxi-Pad, stares into Spade’s beady eyes early on and says, “Let Maxi-Pad soak up your pain,” we’re in for some classic Sandler crass, not to mention his later gem: “If you put that thing in my ass then you’re gay.”
I honestly think they tried to make a cohesive story even less on this one when compared to Ridiculous 6. Like the two Grown Ups movies, it seemed like just an excuse for Sandler to take his pals to tropical locales. At least Ridic 6 tried to tie everything all together as a western. The Do-Over just kind of makes things up as it goes along without actually being the action movie that was promised to us. It’s got enough Corona and Budweiser product placement to ensure the movie got finished, but it all doesn’t matter. Sandler’s in a league of his own now making Netflix money. What did you guys think of this compared to Ridic 6?
WCW: But Sean, Corona™ was an important recurring symbol — of Charlie’s idea of Paradise!
It’s really hard to say if Ridic 6 or The Do-Over is more convoluted. The script, by Kevin Barnett and Chris Pappas, seemed more deeply worked out; one could imagine the ridiculous flow charts, full of notes like “actually FBI agent,” “gets back at stepchildren,” “turns out to be gay” (in several cases). Ridiculous 6 left a lot of room for improvisatory fart and bestiality humor, where Do-Over tightly scripted its old-woman-boobs and close-ups on ballsacks (Luis Guzman’s, of course, in a threesome scene that recalls Cedric the Entertainer’s shocking turn in Top Five) very carefully.
For one thing, every character in The Do-Over, with the possible exception of David Spade’s, has one or several unlikely reveals up their sleeve. SPOILER ALERT: Patton is the villain, who, for a big cashout, attempts to suppress the cure for cancer to keep a big evil foreign chemo company from “losing trillions.” Yep, this movie is actually about curing cancer. Sandler has about four to sixty more twists up his sleeve. His profession is always in question: After lying about being an FBI agent and coroner, he’s revealed to be a guidance counselor. He also tried and failed to be a motorcycle cop, which is why he can take out a full cadre of skeletal, acrobatic German thugs, who are basically the Mountain Holler knockoff of the nihilists in The Big Lebowski. Of course, in Sandler’s reinterpretation, they really love assplay.
Oh Sandler, who sidles into the film with the line “Damn, Charlie, you still hung up on that skank?” Sandler, who convinces Spade to show his dick to a boat full of bikini-clad women, and then when they laugh at it, shoots at their boat with a flare gun to scare them. Sandler, who sucks his fingers to stimulate a homosexual biker, who is in the midst of mourning the death of his boyfriend “Butch,” whose identity Sandler has stolen. What a world.
CG: When Ridic 6 came out, it broke a streaming record for Netflix — or at least, this is what Netflix claimed. While I think Sandler and his Happy Madison jabronis cleared out most of the appallingly offensive “this is Trump’s America shit from The Do-Over, I can’t see this doing nearly as well. Ridic 6 was styled as a parody, and that’s kind of why I’d guess some people might just toss it on as a braindead lark. (“Make it rain like Twain!” Vanilla Ice, who portrayed Mark Twain — GET IT?! — in that film) but it’s hard to describe what The Do-Over is. It’s a … mock thriller? Honestly I was scared to get up because I thought I’d miss a twist, or a character reveal, or a Rob Schneider appearance. Do you guys think we’ll be seeing as many irate thinkpieces as we did for Ridic 6?
It has a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes right now.
SH: If anything we’ll get thinkpieces about Paula Patton’s character and Spade and Sandler’s treatment of her. With the Patton-as-villain reveal the movie does play with the reputation of Sandler’s movies to have gorgeous but ditzy female characters improbably shack up with hopeless beta-male slobs. But then it promptly has the climactic slo-mo fight between Patton and Hahn as Sandler and Spade ogle them for about five minutes. It’s as progressive as it is regressive to the point of getting nowhere.
I’ll give you that Ridic 6 was definitely more improv-friendly, and even that The Do-Over might have been intricately planned out, but only up to a point. They planned everything out in the script meeting until they broke for lunch and forgot how one thing led to another. The filmmakers most likely convinced themselves they had Citizen fucking Kane on their hands and laughed at their genius all the way through production because they eventually realized their narrative negligence suddenly made it a “mock thriller.” But ask Barnett or Pappas to concisely explain the plot in a rational way and they’d probably have Netflix security throw you out of the building.
What was Patton’s characters endgame here? She accepted hush money and worked with the faux-Lebowski Germans to foil her husband’s work, but why? Was the money the Germans offered her more than she stood to make off her husband’s trillion-dollar miracle drug? By the way, cancer does get cured in this movie. It’s tough enough to make sense of that, but then again — like you said — this is a movie that has a horrific close-up of Luis Guzman’s balls so why even expect to make sense of anything. It’ll probably get more streams than Ridic 6, only to be surpassed by Sandler’s next movie. Does this movie matter?
WCW: What Kiss Me Deadly was to H-bomb paranoia, The Do-Over is to our cumulative fear of what Trump’s America might look like. Like Aldrich’s 1955 film, it doesn’t quite hang together: Nothing is what it seems, nothing is off the table. The world of The Do-Over is no more upside-down that our own. The grail for which all the characters are striving for in the film — its main character — is an iPad. Ultimately, a USB stick in David Spade’s asshole saves the day. Trump is convincing America he can clap his hands and solve all of our problems; Spade and Sandler cure cancer almost accidentally, and end up millionaires in Puerto Rico. Did the American Dream ever “make sense”?
SH: Wow. You really opened my eyes to the truth, Winston. You’re like Sandler’s Maxi-Pad. You soaked up the pain of watching this movie.
CG: Happy Memorial Day!