With an ensemble as big and good as the one featured in Men, Women & Children , it's hard to pinpoint one actor who stands out from the pack. Despite the abundance of big-name actors, it's a testament to the quality of the cast that nearly all of the performances blend together into one seamless feat of acting — that is, except for Adam Sandler's. Because while co-stars like Judy Greer and Kaitlyn Dever might give stronger quality performances, it's Sandler you'll remember, thanks to a dramatic turn that's totally unlike anything one would expect from the actor most recently known for Grown Ups 2 and Blended.
Yet while a dramatic performance by Sandler is certainly a rare sight, it's not unheard of; before Men, Women & Children, the actor explored his serious side in a handful of big and small movies. From Punch-Drunk Love to Reign Over Me, he's had a history of taking his talents to drama, but the results have varied; for every Golden Globe-nominated darling, there's been a cringeworthy flop to balance it out. It's too early to tell where Children will fall on the spectrum, but judging from past Sandler-going-serious movies, it definitely has a shot at success. Here's how the actor's past dramatic attempts have fared:
Punch-Drunk Love (2007)
Seriousness: Paul Thomas Anderson, emotional abuse, violent attacks and intimidating henchmen.
How'd it do? Critics loved it; Punch-Drunk Love is generally considered the best Sandler-drama ever, thanks to a truly great performance that, at the time, was totally unexpected coming from the comedian. He was nominated for a Golden Globe.
Seriousness: Sandler's a celebrity chef who hires a Mexican housekeeper. There's cheating, language miscommunications, and awkward father-daughter relationships.
How'd it do? Not well. It bombed at the box office and received mixed reviews, with some critics calling it a sitcom-y, miscalculated failure.
Reign Over Me (2007)
Seriousness: Sandler's character loses his family to September 11th, deals with grief through rekindled friendship. This is as serious as any Sandler movie's ever gotten.
How'd it do? Money-wise, just decently; not too many people were enthused at seeing a 9/11 movie starring Adam Sandler, weirdly enough. Critics had a stronger reaction, praising the performances of Sandler and Don Cheadle as well as the movie's affecting script.
Funny People (2009)
Seriousness: A comedian (Sandler) deals with cancer, cheating, and mortality.
How'd it do? With audiences, not so great — it didn't even make back its budget. With critics, though, reviews were strong; Roger Ebert called it Sandler's "best performance" to date.
The Cobbler (TBA)
Seriousness: A shoe repairman (Sandler) tired with life finds a magical heirloom that enables him to experience life from the views of his customers by literally stepping into their shoes.
How'd it do? It's not out yet in theaters (its release date is unknown), but when it premiered at Toronto, reviews were decidedly mixed. Some critics compared it favorably to the sweet-if-overly-sentimental Click, while others viewed it as one of the worst Sandler movies in recent memory, drama or comedy. Audiences will have to decide for themselves if this Serious Sandler is worth their time when the movie's finally released, likely later this year.
Images: Paramount; Columbia (4); Image Entertainment