Written by Dylan Brandsema
I am genuinely and wholeheartedly convinced that Adam Sandler is Hollywood’s most dedicated troll. I can’t think of any other reason why someone who’s become notorious amongst moviegoers for spitting out abhorrent, carelessly slapped together “comedies” time and time again, would do absolutely nothing to change the form of his films after being given a 4-picture deal from Netflix, the current most popular internet streaming service in the world. The only difference between The Ridiculous 6 and the rest of Happy Madison’s prominent filmography is that you can watch this one for free, and turn it off it any time you want.
This film also holds the distinction of becoming infamous before its release. There were the reports of Native Americans walking off of the set during production due to the film’s offensive treatments of its Native American characters. This was promptly followed by Sandler telling them to “not be so sensitive.” In the case, the natives are right – the narrative view of Native Americans in The Ridiculous 6 is revolting – whether it’s the film’s character referring to them as “a sweet piece of red prairie meat” or “maize munchers” (no, I am not making this up), or it’s one of the very first shots of the film, which is of a sign reading “Redskins keep out!” This film has no understanding whatsoever of its Native American characters. Of course, things like rampant misogyny and ego-stroking are commonplace among these kind of Happy Madison “films,” but outright racism and discrimination towards an entire race of people is a whole new low.
The problem here stems from the fact that the director, Frank Coraci, and the rest of the Happy Madison crew have absolutely no idea how to make a Western. It’s true that the characters in Western films are indeed often racists, as is a reflection of the times, but this does not mean that the movie itself must also adhere to their dogma. It’s one thing to have racist characters in a film – it’s another to overbearingly hit the viewer over the head with their ideologies until it overshadows the story and becomes part of the narrative. Coraci has no sense of character perspective or balance, and it turns many parts of the film into a prejudiced nose-thumbing of its secondary characters.
At the premiere for Pixels, Sandler’s previous work, he responded to the news of Natives walking off the set by saying the following: “It’s really about American Indians being good to my character and about their family and just being good people. There’s no mocking of American Indians at all in the movie. It’s a pro-Indian movie. So hopefully when people see it — whoever was offended on set and walked out, I hope they realize that, and that’s it. It was kinda taken out of context.” A Netflix representative, who un-mysteriously remains nameless, said, “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.” Sandler is partially right. It is taken out of context – context that would make the film’s overt racism appropriate, that is. It’s clear that Sandler and co. really enjoy Westerns, and that’s good for them. And it’s clear they want to make their love of the genre clear with parody (or at least as far as I can tell). Well, I’m sorry Mr. Sandler, but your movie cannot be a parody when it’s condescending and mean-spirited. That simply is not how it works.
There could be a willingness to overlook the film’s misguided philosophies if Sandler’s performance was any good. Unfortunately, yet somehow not surprisingly, he is utterly wooden. Sandler is a talented man – it should be acknowledged. Anyone who’s ever seen his performances in films like Punch Drunk Love, the eponymous Reign Over Me, or even the latter half of Click cannot deny that the man has acting chops, both comedic and dramatic – deep down in him, somewhere. As Tommy “White Knife” Stockburn, Sandler puts no effort at all into the role, which is a shame, given the character’s circumstances. The idea of a white man raised by Indians, instilled with Indian values, who lives by Indian ways is exceedingly interesting, but Sandler is about as entertaining to watch as paint after it has dried. The rest of the cast is either extremely obnoxious and annoying, or simply not interesting at all. Taylor Lautner, who plays Tommy’s brother, Lil Pete, spends the entire movie acting like a toddler who’s been dropped on his head too many times (his hilarious catchphrase is “Gall dang!”). Jorge Garcia of Lost fame, who plays Tommy’s mute brother Herm, who is essentially a cross-hybrid of Hagrid from the Harry Potter series and Attila The Hun with more than a few screws loose, spends the majority of the film’s runtime spewing random gibberish and grunting noises while rolling and running around like a lost gorilla. Apparently these characters are supposed to be funny. Terry Crews and Luke Wilson are also there, and Vanilla Ice plays Mark Twain (yes, really). The only main character with any sort of effort put into him is Ramon, played by Rob Schneider, who, unbelievably, is believably convincing as the burro-befriended Hispanic brother. Yes, it is true – the best performance in the film is given by Rob Schneider. Can you believe that is a real sentence that I have written?
Surprisingly, the film is actually shot very well. The cinematography is more than competent, and is complemented well by the convincing and unexpectedly legitimate exterior sets. The film is shot by Dean Semler, who been shooting films since the early 1970s. He’s done such films as Apocalypto, Dances With Wolves, and We Were Soldiers, but he, like Coraci, has also done his fair share of Sandler flicks. I suppose after years of working under the Happy Madison umbrella, something clicked in Semler and Coraci, and they finally decided to create some worthwhile imagery. That is until Schneider’s burro projectile poops all over the wall and the other characters, of course.
Unfortunately, the film’s effort to to make the west look good visually (and it does) does nothing for its inconsistent, nonsensical, careless, shamble of a script. Written as usual by Sandler and long-time writing partner Tim Herlihy, The Ridiculous 6 may be the duo’s worst since Grown Ups 2. If it weren’t enough that the character traits and capabilities are entirely unbelievable (apparently being raised by Native Americans gives Sandler’s character supernatural acrobatic abilities), it simply is not funny. This is a criticism that has become extremely repetitive when reviewing films put out by Sandler and his usual troop, but it has become that way for a reason. This film runs 1 hour and 59 minutes and not a single joke, gag, or shtick lands where it should. Sandler has written funny material in the past. A lot of it, actually. I often wonder whether he has simply run his well dry, or if he’s just too lazy to put the water back in.
The opening credits of the film read “Presented in 4K” in big bold text right next to the title. A Netflix original being filmed/presented in 4K is nothing new – the most recent seasons of House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black did this, and Netflix’s first original movie, Beasts of No Nation, also did this. Why has this film decided to wear this fact on its sleeves? One can only assume that in bragging about something this like, Coraci and the rest are laughing downward at us for being subjected their ongoing onslaught of cinematic tomfoolery. They should know by now that no one is laughing back.
Ridiculous Six OVERALL RATING: 1/10
Dylan Brandsema is a staff writer for Pop-Break specializing in film and television. When he isn’t writing reviews or spending too much analyzing the medium, he’s writing and directing his own independent films as well as drinking way too much soda. Currently at full-time film major at Full Sail University, Dylan eats, sleeps, and breathes everything related to the cinema. You can follow him on Twitter @SneakyOstrich69.