On Friday, Netflix ever-so-quietly released its original movie “The Ridiculous 6.” The comedy is the first in a four-movie deal with Adam Sandler, and judging by the user reviews on Netflix’s site, subscribers were more than willing to take a breather from whatever series they were binge-watching to queue up the latest Happy Madison Production. As of this writing more than 700 viewers have weighed in, most of them awarding the movie either one star or five. (On the high end of the spectrum: “This was stupid, hilarious and a lot of fun.” On the low: “I loved ‘Happy Gilmore’ and ‘Billy Madison’ when I was a teenager. Either the movies have gotten worse and worse or I just matured more and more.”) Say what you will, but the movie is currently averaging four stars.
Sandler co-wrote the script for the western satire with frequent collaborator, Tim Herlihy, and another member of his crew, Frank Coraci (“Blended,” “Here Comes the Boom”), directed. Long story short, “The Ridiculous 6” is just as idiotic as you’d expect from the people responsible for “That’s My Boy,” “Grown Ups 2” and “Jack and Jill.” But it’s interesting to note that — for one of the few times in his career — Sandler plays a normal, mature adult. Rather than being the dude who’s always causing a scene for no reason or the guy who scolds imaginary penguins or the one who starts fights with famous game show hosts, Sandler’s character, Tommy, is a pretty stand-up guy.
We first meet Tommy, also known as White Knife, when he’s taking on a gang of gunslingers who are accosting his fiance, Smoking Fox (Julia Jones). It’s hard to know which is worse, the damsel-in-distress routine or that name. In any case, Tommy quickly makes it clear that not only is he a brilliant fighter, but he’s also an honorable man. He was raised by the leader of an Apache tribe after his mother was murdered, and Tommy’s adoptive dad has instilled in him some core values that would be foreign to the characters Sandler typically plays: Be kind to others; be kind to the land; and if you’re going to steal, steal from jerks.
That last rule comes in handy after Tommy’s real father, career criminal Frank Stockburn (Nick Nolte, a walking smoker’s cough), tracks down his son only to be immediately kidnapped by a roving gang. So Tommy takes it upon himself to save the old guy by amassing a ransom. Luckily, he doesn’t have to do it alone. As he starts making his way toward his father, Tommy keeps bumping into Frank’s other sons — brothers he didn’t know he had. The other five of the “ridiculous six” are the gibberish-spewing Herm (Jorge Garcia), piano player Chico (Terry Crews), the burro-loving Ramon (Rob Schneider), disgraced secret service agent Danny (Luke Wilson) and, standing in for the usual Sandler character, Lil Pete (Taylor Lautner), a loud and perpetually confused rube.
One reason Netflix may have kept the movie’s release somewhat under wraps is the brouhaha that occurred during filming. A handful of extras, portraying Native American characters, walked off the set because they were disgusted by grotesque or stereotypical portrayals. Netflix ended up defending Sandler, saying, “The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”
In the end, the Native American characters turn out to be the only redeeming personalities in the movie. The Apache tribe comes off better than anyone else, even beloved writer Mark Twain, who, in a bizarre bit of casting is brought to life by Vanilla Ice. That being said, you can understand why some of the extras were put off by characters named Wears No Bra and Beaver Breath.
The truth is that the movie is less offensive than simply stupid. It’s a mess of ill-conceived sketches patchworked together, including a fable explaining how the inventor of baseball came up with all those crazy rules, a recurring bit with a flatulent donkey, some stomach-churning imagery involving eyeballs and hot spoons and a lot of jokes that viewers will very clearly see coming. Not even a cast of very talented actors, including Harvey Keitel, Will Forte, Steve Buscemi and John Turturro, can save this mess.
In the end, it’s sort of heartening to see Sandler play a grown-up for a change. Maybe in the future he can apply some of that new-found maturity to the writing of the movies, too.