The Movies List: Adam Sandler

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Chris Herrington was on assignment this week (I've always wanted to say that!), so Chris Vernon asked if I would fill in for the "Movies" segment on Vernon's show.

I'm an avid listener, but there's a reason I write for a living rather than work in broadcast journalism. That said, this one was a no-brainer: It was on.

You can hear how it went down yesterday if you click on that Vernon link and go to the MixPod feature on the website. Keep clicking back on the track listing and you'll eventually get to me. Each segment is its own track.

I took a bit of abuse from the host and callers, but I was expecting it, and, I must admit, thirsting for it a little. Baptism by fire, they say.

Without further ado, the top five Adam Sandler movies:

5. Airheads (1994)
This early-career film is one of Sandler’s last supporting roles before he hit the big-time. Here he plays Pip, the dim-witted, lovable drummer for The Lone Rangers, a rock band that also features Brendan Fraser and Steve Buscemi. The Lone Rangers take over a radio station with water guns so they can play their demo over the airwaves and become famous. There’s a ton of well-known people in it, including Chris Farley, Michael McKean, Judd Nelson, David Arquette, and Michael Richards. There are some funny moments, but none more than when Sandler tries to act tough for the hostages. Dog Day Afternoon meets Spinal Tap: Airheads is number five.

4. Happy Gilmore (1996)
This sports comedy stars Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a failed hockey player who tries to make it on the links when he realizes he has an extremely powerful golf drive. Gilmore has to win a tournament to save his grandma’s house, and he squares off against the arrogant rival golfer Shooter McGavin, played by Christopher McDonald. Bob Barker steals the movie playing himself, and Carl Weathers plays Gilmore’s mentor Chubbs. The best of Sandler’s pure comedies, Happy Gilmore is number 4.

3. Spanglish (2004)
Filmmaker James L. Brooks, who made Broadcast News, As Good as It Gets, and Terms of Endearment, directs Sandler in this comic drama about parenting, class, and culture. It’s told mostly from the point of view of Flor, a Mexican immigrant played by Paz Vega, who comes to L.A. to give a better life for her adolescent daughter. Flor becomes housekeeper for the affluent Clasky’s, played by Sandler and Téa Leoni. Sandler’s particularly good as John Clasky, a chef whose restaurant is on the verge of making it big. Funny and sweet and kinda sad, Spanglish is number 3.

2. The Wedding Singer (1998)
This one pairs Sandler with Drew Barrymore in one of the better formulaic romantic comedies of the 90s. Sandler plays Robbie, a wedding singer who falls for Drew Barrymore’s Julia, for whom he’s been hired to sing. A very watchable romantic comedy, for guys and gals alike. The Wedding Singer is set in the 80s and is full of all kinds of pop-culture references. It also capitalizes on Sandler’s music-comedy talents, on display elsewhere in “The Hannukah Song” and “Lunch Lady.” The Wedding Singer, number two on my list.

1. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
By far the finest thing Sandler’s ever been a part of, auteur P.T. Anderson — who has made Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood — takes the persona Sandler has developed in lesser films and mines it for dramatic material. The anger issues underlying Sandler’s characters in movies like Happy Gilmore and Waterboy are explored in Barry Egan, an emotional train wreck who’s constantly harangued by his seven sisters. He passively takes all of their abuse, bottling it up until it explodes in a few scenes of absolute fury. When he meets Lena, played by Emily Watson, he feels love for the first time, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Mary Lynn Rajskub (known for playing Chloe on 24) and Philip Seymour Hoffman have great small roles. But Punch-Drunk Love is Anderson’s and Sandler’s. Rage has power, the movie concedes. Love has more. Punch-Drunk Love, number one.

Man, the callers killed me. Mostly for not having 50 First Dates, which I haven't seen. Seriously? 50 First Dates? Okay, I'll give it a shot.

Vernon has asked me to come back and do it again next week, as Herrington is vacationing. I said "yes" at the speed of light. Can't wait.

And Roser's live rendition of a Greg-centric "Movies" song? The high point of my professional career so far.

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