Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), then Tim Allen in El Camino Christmas. Not sure if this is a pattern, or merely a coincidence, but if I could send a friendly note to my friends at Netflix: keep it up! Not since Punch Drunk Love has Adam Sandler been so damn good, and not since anything in recent (or even remote) memory have I taken Tim Allen seriously as an actor. And no, The Santa Clause unfortunately does not qualify as serious acting. Oh, and before you think I'm being blindsided by a huge and obvious omission, I'm leaving Ben Stiller out because he's been making small leaps away from the comedy game for years now. Hopefully more on that in a future post.
The thing is, I think actors like Sandler and Allen are inherently great actors underneath all the slapstick and funny faces forced upon them by their own genre. Being able to perform well as a comedic actor is painstakingly difficult, and comedians are certainly underappreciated in my opinion. And I don't know if comedians actively seek more serious roles and are simply not met with reciprocated enthusiasm by studio execs, or if they're simply more comfortable and prefer acting in comedic roles. But seeing Adam Sandler crunch through his dialogue and offer a completely different sense of physicality in The Meyerowitz Stories was just way too refreshing to ignore. If his 4 picture deal with Netflix isn't restricted to comedies, he would do the world a real service by not making something like The Ridiculous 6 ever again. It might not be what most viewers want given it's 'ridiculous' record breaking viewership at the time, but Sandler's career deserves much more than that.
And then we have good old Tim Allen - and actor I'll admit I've long forgotten about unless Toy Story comes up in conversation (no one seems to be talking about Home Improvement anymore and I don't have cable!). While El Camino Christmas was far from amazing, and his performance wasn't nearly as outstanding as Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories, it was a stark reminder that the dude has a pretty powerful screen presence. It's probably the reason why he starred in a television show that ran for 8 whole seasons. These days, unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have many opportunities to showcase the full weight of his onscreen presence. Here's hoping this trend of taking comedians seriously as actors continues on Netflix and beyond.