Up until this weekend there were arguably two true movie stars: Will Smith and Adam Sandler. Now there is one (maybe) and it isn’t Adam Sandler. A real movie star is not just a very famous person or an actor/actress who seems to always get big parts. Movie stars can open movies by themselves. Movie stars guarantee an $100 million box office regardless of the quality of the film. That was Adam Sandler last June but it isn’t him anymore, as That’s My Boy finished this past weekend in 5th place, earning only $13 million.
There was no working actor more consistent than Sandler. Since 1998, Adam Sandler made 12 “Adam Sandler” movies that were critically disliked yet grossed a shit-ton of money. He was the high-water mark of American lowbrow comedy since the Clinton administration. But something turned with Jack & Jill; the negative criticism seemed to dominate the conversation more than it ever had before. Though the film still earned over $25 million in its first weekend, it ended at less that $75 million domestically. Sure, Sandler was never popular with critics, and he was never supposed to be, but now he was losing his people. A $13 million opening weekend is very, very bad. If you just look at movies that Adam Sandler starred in and was the driving force behind (so excluding films like Funny People and Punch-Drunk Love), you’d have to go back to his pre-movie-star days of Bulletproof to find something that did worse. Adam Sandler alone is no longer enough.
Don’t worry (if you are the type of person who worries about super rich famous people), however, Sandler isn’t going to show up in a gutter tomorrow. His next film is the sequel to 2010’s Grown Ups, which was another critically despised film that basically printed money. It’s fortuitous timing because Grown Ups 2 comes with solid co-stars that can shoulder some of the weight. Also, it appears that America doesn’t want to watch Sandler dress up and play a character for a while. After Grown Ups 2 he is expected to sign on to co-star with Will Ferrell and Alec Baldwin in Three Mississippi, which sounds like the type of movie that would do well. It might be a while before we’ll get a real sense if his star has truly fallen, but regardless he is not what he once was. It is an end of an era.
This might end up being worse news for Andy Samberg, who was somewhat oddly cast as the straight man in That’s My Boy. This was supposed to be the movie that catapulted him into being a bankable movie actor. He still has the indie rom-com Celeste and Jesse Forever coming out later in the year, but that shouldn’t do too much to raise his standing. He might be relegated to television work, like his upcoming BBC series Cuckoo, until he writes something for himself or a new starring vehicle comes along that better suits his absurdist tendencies.
Or maybe That’s My Boy will surprise the world and develop an insane cult following. And in four years we will cheer the news that That’s My Boy is finally going to have a highly anticipated sequel. Or maybe not.