For the most The Expendables movies have been met part with critical disdain. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane christened the first film, “breathtakingly sleazy in its lack of imagination,” while reviewer James Kendrick said the second installment, was “a better concept than it is a movie.”
Both films star a who’s who of 1980s actions movies—Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more—and have exterminated the competition, collecting an average of $289.9 million at the worldwide box office.
The new movie, inventively titled The Expendables 3, adds vintage action stars Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford to the mix and doubtless will add big bucks to the franchise’s overall gross, whether the critics embrace it or not.
The Expendables movies appear to be bulletproof to critical missiles but they aren’t the first films to be lambasted by reviewers and then clean up at the box office.
Meet the Spartans, a parody of sword and sandal epics from the creators of Scary Movie, currently sits at a 2% Tomatometer rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but that didn’t stop it from taking the top spot at the box office, narrowly edging out Stallone’s Rambo reboot, on its 2008 opening weekend. In the end it made $84,646,831 worldwide despite being called “one of the most painfully bad comedies I’ve ever had to endure,” by Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons.
Finally, Adam Sandler is a fan favorite, but finds little love from the critics. Jack and Jill, a 2011 comedy that saw him play twin brother and sister, earned a whopping $149,673,788 worldwide, but was dubbed “relentlessly witless” by the Daily Star while New Zealand critic Liam Maguren wrote, “Burn this. This cannot be seen. By anyone.”
“Hey! There’s a new Adam Sandler movie coming out,” is the first part of a sentence no discerning movie fan ever wants to hear. That’s bad enough but it’s the next part that really rankles. “And it co-stars Al Pacino.” Yes Virginia, it’s been a long time since Pacino’s name was mentioned in the same breath as Brando and DeNiro, but his reputation as one of the great actors of his generation shines a little less brightly today.
Sandler plays both title characters in “Jack and Jill.” They’re womb-mates–twins–who live on different coasts. His California based advertising agency is about to lose their biggest client, Dunkin’ Donuts, if they can’t convince Al Pacino to appear in a commercial for a new product, the Dunkaccino. Jill is a singleton, having devoted her life to looking after their parents back home in the Bronx. She’s the kind of plain talker who says things like, “Are you going bald? No, you getting fat and your hair doesn’t realize it has more face to cover.” Now the parents are gone and Jill comes to visit, turning Jack’s life upside in the process. On the upside Pacino becomes smitten and agrees to do the commercial if he can play twister with Jack’s sister.
Sandler has corralled a number of his friends to make cameo appearances–including one of the biggest stars in the world (wearing a Justin Bieber t-shirt), Bruce Jenner and the usual suspects like David Spade–and they get the movie’s biggest laughs. The rest of the movie makes some of Sandler’s other films, like the odious “Little Nicky,” look like the Marx Brothers.
For his part–or rather, parts–Sandler does his usual schick times two. Once in a wig and painted nails and once in his trademark t-shirts and sneakers. We don’t expect much more from him, so he doesn’t exactly disappoint, but it is hard to understand what Pacino was thinking.
Like Neil Patrick Harris in “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” the Oscar winner is playing a heightened version of himself, but his “Pacino related shenanigans” as Jack calls them, aren’t funny. Instead it feels like we’re witnessing a slow slide into self parody and the movie’s references to Stella Adler and Marlon Brando only add insult to… well, insult.
Near the end of the movie Pacino says (SLIGHT SPOILER), “Burn this. this must never be seen by anyone.” Certainly not anyone who cherishes his performance in the first wo “Godfather” movies. He is, of course, free to do what he wants, but we are just as free not to watch it happen.
I don’t blame Adam Sandler for showcasing Pacino in this way, but I do have some advice for him. If he keeps making movies as bad as “Jack and Jill” he might end up like Pacino–appearing in bad Adam Sandler movies.
Ben Affleck did it. So did Eddie Murphy and Charlie Chaplin. Heck, Alec Guinness did it eight times, including once as a woman.
This weekend in Jack and Jill, Adam Sandler adds his name to the list of actors who have played multiple roles in the same film.
“In Jack and Jill I play me,” says Sandler, “and I play my twin sister. The man version of me is doing OK; he has a family out in L.A. The twin-sister version of me lives out in the Bronx and comes out to L.A. for Thanksgiving and then refuses to leave.”
The idea of playing more than one role in a movie dates back to the Mary Pickford 1918 weepy Stella Maris.
In it she plays the wealthy title character and the uneducated orphan Unity Blake. The studio balked at her insistence on playing both roles, but Pickford insisted.
As Stella she was photographed like a glamorous movie star, but as Unity she wore unflattering makeup and was shot from her right, less photogenic, side. Scenes where the two characters shared the screen were achieved through double exposure.
Since then everyone from Mel Brooks (he was President Skroob and Yogurt in Spaceballs), to David Carradine (remember him in Circle of Iron as The Blind Man, Monkeyman, Death, and Changsha?) to Peter Sellers (who played as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) have taken on multi-roles.
Perhaps because of their sketch comedy backgrounds, Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers often take on various roles in their films, but Alec Guinness, the actor best known in North America as Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, must hold the record for character changes in one feature-length movie. In Kind Hearts and Coronets he plays no less than eight characters. In an acting tour de force he’s easily recognizable in each part, but doesn’t repeat himself from character to character. Instead he carefully constructs each, from the happy-go-lucky young photographer to the window-smashing suffragette Lady Agatha.
Rivaling Guinness’s achievement is Buster Keaton who played every part — including a stagehand, a dance troupe, a full band and every member in the audience — in the 1921 short film The Play House.
To top it off he also took credit for every crew job including editor, director, writer and cameraman.