Negative reviews have a weird effect on some people. If you haven’t yet watched The Do-Over, the latest Netflix Original movie headlined by Adam Sandler and David Spade, you might read a review like this one and go “It can’t possibly be that bad, right? Right?” We’re starting this review fully aware that some of you may go on to attempt to enjoy this ironically, but we’re warning you from the top, without hyperbole: this is the worst movie Adam Sandler has ever made.
It’s the second in Sandler’s four-picture deal with Netflix, which was viewed as a coup for the streaming service when it first moved into producing its own content, but thus far, they probably haven’t been as expected. After last year’s Western spoof The Ridiculous 6, in which the Happy Madison players found a million more ways to die in the West, The Do-Over is even more of a departure, into more adult (though still not grown-up) territory.
Charlie McMillan (Spade) is a buttoned-down bank manager who’s frequently humiliated by his cheating wife (Natasha Leggero) and her twin hellions from a previous marriage. As Charlie watches her grinding on her prom king ex-husband at their high school reunion, his old buddy Max Kessler (Sandler) happens upon him and apparently decides there and then that the two of them should fake their deaths in a boat accident.
You quickly learn to accept that Max is the sort of bloke who would readily have roofies available to him, so Charlie doesn’t really get much of a say about this scheme until after he wakes up. Max has even stolen identities for the two of them – Butch Ryder and Dr. Ronnie Fishman – so that they can vamoose to Puerto Rico and live the high life off of a safety deposit box containing millions of dollars. However, they soon discover that Butch and Ronnie were on the run, for reasons far too convoluted to spoil here, and a series of violent confrontations ensue.
The result is an over-long action comedy that’s short on laughs and much too heavy on nonsensical plot twists. By today’s standards, 108 minutes isn’t even that long for a comedy, but this is punishing. It’s fully 45 minutes before any stakes emerge to disrupt Charlie and Max’s self-centred jollies, and just as soon as they do, the film devolves into a series of increasingly desperate reveals in which the eventual McGuffin turns out to be a cure for cancer.
But what makes this so much worse than, say, Jack & Jill or the Grown Ups movies? Even if you hated those movies, you don’t have to watch this one for very long to tell the difference between a juvenile, un-PC but essentially good-natured comedy and the hateful mean streak that runs through The Do-Over like an open wound.
The script by Kevin Barnett and Chris Pappas is a patchwork of setpieces, stitched together by gross-out jokes and flat linking narration by Spade, which is sometimes so contrived and disjointed as to look like an especially bad extended improv session.
It hardly helps that Sandler’s Max is an out-and-out psychopath. He’s a pathological liar and he clearly enjoys inflicting violence on others, whether firing a flare gun at some bikini-clad women, hitting a jogger with a caravan or torturing someone by putting their head in a vice, and no one ever calls him on it. The low point may be his diagnosis that a recently widowed woman just “needs a nice dick to cry on,” but frankly, you can take your pick. The character is by no means a stretch for Sandler and through Charlie’s perspective, you’re clearly supposed to like Max, but the uncharacteristic nastiness obliterates any vestige of goodwill you might have towards the star.
Elsewhere, Spade is the straight man and ‘nice guy’, who elicits even less sympathy. He’s pathetic first and then increasingly indignant and entitled as the story goes on. In case the simmering subtext of hating women isn’t obvious enough, he actually voices it as he gets in a brawl near the end of the movie and literally yells about how the opposite sex are always fucking him over while pummelling a woman in the stomach.
As you might expect from this outlook on women, Paula Patton and Kathryn Hahn are wasted as a gullible widow and a psycho ex-girlfriend respectively and although both characters are reconfigured in the course of the plot’s endless heel-turns, they’re always secondary to the toxic masculinity and celebrity tourism that overwhelms the movie. Heck, the female characters are barely paid more mind than the mortifying sight of Luis Guzman’s sweaty scrotum, the first and most fearsome harbinger of the film’s retrograde gay panic.
In all of Sandler’s filmography, only 2012’s That’s My Boy, (the comedy about the aftermath of statutory rape and incest) comes close to the coarseness of this. If this were made for cinemas, it would get the R rating, (it’s a 15 in the UK) but then if this were made for cinemas, most studios wouldn’t have been deemed it releasable in this form.
The Do-Over has an adult rating, but it’s far from mature. It’s as juvenile as any of Happy Madison’s previous comedies (some of which remain well worth seeking out), but its childish nastiness and misogyny is what makes it so poisonously bad. Having introduced irredeemable characters, it adds insult to injury by turning as mawkish and sentimental as his generally more harmless fare. It’s hard to imagine even the staunchest Adam Sandler fans enjoying this intolerable mess.