Wednesday 16 December 2015

"The Ridiculous 6" (Guardian 16/12/15)

The Ridiculous 6 **
Dir: Frank Coraci. With: Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Luke Wilson. 119 mins. No cert

And so does the universe correct itself: in the week of the most anticipated film ever made, a new Adam Sandler release trickles onto Netflix. Depending on temperament, spoof Western The Ridiculous 6 will mark either a seachange or merely a plumbing adjustment – it’s the first feature Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions has pumped directly into living rooms, a breakthrough that recalls that scatological Stewart Lee aside about paying towatch E4. Despite production line troubles – several Native American extras quit in protest at the project’s insensitivity – the final cut still features characters named Beaver Breath and Never Wears Bra, played by Caucasians in brownface. For Sandler, it’s business as usual.

Though the title suggests a Barron Knights-style takedown of The Magnificent Seven or The Hateful Eight, the jokeless prologue hints Team Sandler really wanted to ride horses as they did the rubber rings of the Grown-Ups series. Matters turn notionally comic only after Sandler’s outlaw Tommy “White Knife” Stockburn assembles a gang to spring kidnapped pop Nick Nolte. A low-rent pub quiz answer in waiting, these are: Rob Schneider in orangeface as a Mexican whose burro has explosive diarrhoea; Taylor Lautner as a gap-toothed yokel; Jorge Garcia as a man-mountain mountain man; Luke Wilson as a gunslinger driven to booze by his part in the Lincoln assassination; and Terry Crews as a pianist compelled to come out as black.

Sandler’s go-to story guy Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer, Click) at least returns from New Mexico with a widescreen-looking movie. Yet the lax two-hour running time is the only other sign anybody’s stretching themselves in the new medium; the material canters along in that mild, PG-13 groove Sandler’s been stuck in for a decade. Its less-than-blazing campfire scene sees Lautner reheating Andy Samberg’s “cool beans” catchphrase from 2007’s Hot Rod; Never Wears Bra (Sandler’s wife Jackie) gets leered at in longshot. Among the cameos, John Turturro’s baseball-improvising pioneer garners chuckles, as does Vanilla Ice’s jive-talking Mark Twain. Yet while avoiding A Million Ways to Die in the West’s smugness, Sandler rejects anything so energetic as Seth MacFarlane’s taboo-goosing in favour of cheery inanity.

Peer through this dopey haze long enough, and you can’t fail to notice the cavalier racial attitudes, the endlessly pliable women; you’d have every right to be outraged, were it not now par for the Sandler course. The Ridiculous 6 sees a cannily advised operator giving his fanbase what they want, this time without the hardship of having to leave their La-Z-Boys: a brand has been expanded, with no more effort than is required to open a bag of Cheetos. More troubling is what this collaboration says for Netflix, first positioned as an alternative production-distribution model, now apparently throwing money after the same pointless-to-questionable content as every other studio. In 2015, orangeface surely isn’t about to become the new blackface, is it?

The Ridiculous 6 is now streaming on Netflix.

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