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Entries in Ridiculous Six/The [2015] (1)

Monday
Dec142015

The Ridiculous Six (2015)

Round-down

In Frank Coraci's new Western comedy, The Ridiculous Six, Luke Wilson plays Danny, the former head of President Lincoln's security detail, who changed the course of American history by stepping out for a leak. Racked with guilt, he wanders the dusty plains in search of redemption. He finds it when a posse recruits him to help find notorious outlaw Frank Stockburn (Nick Nolte)--who happens to be Danny's long, lost father, and the only man who might provide a boost of familial esteem. As you can imagine, Danny's rendezvous with destiny doesn't quite work out as he'd hoped, and his rag-tag gang of diverse misfits finds themselves caught between warring factions of bandits.

The Ridiculous Six is a weird movie, at times a misguided attempt at injecting pathos into a film that tips further on the comedic rather than the dramatic scale. Nolte's exchanges with his sons (yes, it turns out Danny's gang is full of growed-up li'l Stockburns) is touching, and the actor struggles with the hot/cold tap of aged tenderness and stone-cold villainy that the role requires. I was also floored by Rob Schneider's performance, which, in theory, should detonate even the most lightly calibrated PC meter: he plays Ramon, a Mexican drifter whose best friend is a donkey. Schneider has played ethnic cartoon characters before, but Coraci calls on him to project more sincerity than I thought the actor was even capable of. He's the movie's secret weapon.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a truly bizarre card game between General Custer (David Spade), Wyatt Earp (Blake Shelton), and a jive-talking Mark Twain (Vanilla Ice). The scene gets interrupted by frequent cut-aways to unfunny material, and I wished to God we'd stayed with these guys. The brief moments we spend with them become a sort of parallel-time/space Midnight in Paris, and I really wanted to see that movie.

I panned for hours just to strain those meager nuggets of fool's gold into a mildly generous Ridiculous Six review.

Now my nose is bleeding.

This Herculean effort required leaving a few details out of the synopsis, including:

A) Chronic narcoleptic Adam Sandler is really the film's star, not the much more interesting Wilson.

B) The two-hour run-time, in which Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy explore nearly every comedy genre (vanilla, absurdist, satirical, etc.) without stringing together fifteen seconds of laughs from any of them.

C) Taylor Lautner's turn as a mentally challenged townie.

D) Terry Crews' turn as the black guy who can play piano with his dick ('cause it's really big, 'cause he's black).

E) The burro with explosive diarrhea.

F) The rampant racist humor that's not so much Blazing Saddles as it is Trump-rally tailgate banter.*

G-Z) In the interest of keeping this review short, please accept a heart-felt, Indiana Jones "Trust Me."

Seriously, what was Netflix thinking when it offered Adam "Vacation Guaranteed/Movie Incidental" Sandler a four-picture deal? From a financial standpoint, sure, his movies are profitable. But creatively, Happy Madison hasn't shown signs of life for at least a decade.* The Ridiculous Six is the worst offender of Sandler's filmography, thanks in large part to significant evidence that Netflix's truckloads of cash were spent on everything but the screenplay. The film looks expensive and expansive. Sandler's cattle-call of celebrity guest stars is at once impressive and heartbreaking.*** And nearly everyone involved looks to be having a grand ol' time cracking each other up, oblivious to the entertainment needs of their paying customers.

Ah, but did anyone really pay to see The Ridiculous Six? Just as U2 partnered with iTunes last year to Trojan Horse a new album onto millions of users' computers, Coraci and Sandler's latest just materialized in everyone's Netflix queue last Friday--essentially "free" for subscribers to watch. I'd wager that many more curious eyeballs will see the film than would have bothered with the multiplex--based on everything from bad press, to bad reviews, to Sandler brand loyalty, to just wanting to see something new. Will Netflix measure The Ridiculous Six's success in the number of views? The number of complete views? User ratings? How does one measure a virtual walk-out? Or the (hopefully) small percentage of suckers that rent Asylum films, who think they've somehow lucked into watching The Hateful Eight two weeks early?

It took me two viewings to watch The Ridiculous Six. After an hour and fifteen minutes, I cooled my boiling blood and resolved to finish up the next night. In the interim, I'd almost completely blocked out key "story" details, including the big "jokes" and "satirical" elements. Sandler's career depends on the mass-market memory hole, which, based on Netflix's Big Data-backed gamble, shows no signs of fading into the sunset.

*I stand by my endorsement of Schneider, by the way: when not creepily stroking his donkey, he sketches out a sad-eyed, sympathetic character--to the disappointment, I'm sure, of Sandler and company.

**I've got a soft spot for Click. Sue me.

***I have a vision of Harvey Keitel unwittingly signing a multi-movie contract when agreeing to play Satan in Little Nicky--and Sandler materializing in a cloud of fart smoke to collect the balance for this movie.