After having achieved a measure of grown-up, Method-actor respectability in the 2002 film "Punch-Drunk Love," Adam Sandler gets back in touch with his inner 14-year-old on his fifth comedy album, the first in five years, "Shhh . . . Don't Tell."
This is theoretically not a bad idea, even for a comedian who, at 37, is distant from his Clearasil years. On previous recordings and in his hugely popular comic films, Sandler harnessed his arrested development for flashes of appealing, lowbrow, Everyguy goofiness. His better-known album pieces, particularly the classic "Chanukah" songs, had moments of puppy-dog charm.
Here, however, Sandler is just puerile and inane. Dropping his most familiar and successful persona, the contented nitwit, he performs 20 skits, bits and songs that are mostly riffs on body parts and functions, primarily scatological and sexual.
Worse than filthy, worse than moronic, he's also lazy. Sandler has always relied more on persona than the strength of his material. But this time -- with intermittent assists from fellow "Saturday Night Live" alums David Spade, Molly Shannon and Rob Schneider -- he barely creates a framework on which to hang any comedy. A sketch called "Whore! Where Are You?!" (with Schneider) consists primarily of Sandler's character loudly and repeatedly referring to his missing wife by that epithet. A bit with Shannon, in which two newlyweds reveal their real thoughts about each other while talking in their sleep, has promising possibilities until it just seizes up and dies. This is forgivable on a weekly show like "SNL," but on an album that was months if not years in the making, it's hard to figure.
No better are Sandler's recurring characters. One is a gay robot, which sounds much more comically rich than it turns out. The other is Pibb, an elderly man who gets into all kinds of unexpected situations, none of which, unfortunately, produces any distinctive, unexpected or amusing outcomes.
The one slight redeeming note on "Shhh" is Sandler's little biographical musical tribute to his father Stan, who died last year at the age of 68. Some of Sandler's brightest (if not to say brainiest) comedy has been built around his family (his last album was called "Stan and Judy's Kid") and his apparently happy upbringing. "Stan the Man," Sandler's ode to Dad, strikes a rare sentimental note. "Born in 1935 in Brooklyn, New York," he warbles, "son of Anna and Phil. At 19 years old he married my mother Judy / And immediately paid his first Bloomingdale's bill."
To say the album is no better than what a couple of bored boys might produce while riffing in the basement after school one day is to underestimate what bored boys can imagine. In any case, Sandler hasn't been a boy for years. Nowadays he's no longer charmingly juvenile, either.