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Why Adam Sandler's sarcastically titled '100% Fresh' stand-up is actually close to 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

The comedian didn't need to pre-empt bad reviews with the title, as critics are loving his new show

Christopher Hooton
Thursday 01 November 2018 15:30
100% fresh trailer

Not that either party expected it to be any other way, but Netflix and Adam Sandler’s collaborations have so far been a critical disaster. The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, Sandy Wexler and The Week Of have garnered 0 per cent, 10 per cent, 27 per cent and 23 per cent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, all fruits of their partnership certified “rotten”.

In a sarcastic attempt to pre-empt bad reviews, Sandler titled his latest Netflix release – a stand-up, this time – 100% Fresh. During one of its songs, dedicated to his long-suffering wife, he thanks her for saying “f*ck all those guys” after reading his Rotten Tomatoes scores, jokingly adding, “I hope they all die miserable deaths.”

This doesn’t seem to have put critics off though, with the stand-up currently holding a 92 per cent score on the review aggregator, only one bad review keeping it from a perfect score. So why the uncharacteristic positivity?

Spliced together from multiple shows, 100% Fresh is fairly typical Sandler stuff: made-up stories that always wind up in the absurd and songs that feel like Lonely Island skits at the “just screwing around” stage. He frets over what to do after seeing a ghost in his d*ck pic, and parodies the repetitive choruses of trap songs with one about the bare essentials in life, named “Phone, Wallet, Keys”.

On their own, they’re actually quite fun: puerile and immature, but welcome in their simplicity amid the layered, meta comedy preferred these days. “Sandler is clearly having fun,” USA Today notes. “His spirit flows out of the special, and it reminds you of the Sandler we all used to love.”

What ultimately wins the audience over, though, is the very same thing that’s behind Sandler’s occasionally stunning film performances: his earnestness. It previously won him the interest of revered filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (who helped with the filming of this Netflix special) and led to the acclaimed Punch Drunk Love. It was also at the core of the 2017 film The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), a tender drama from Noah Baumbach.

In the last 15 minutes of 100% Fresh, Sandler performs a heartfelt tribute to his friend and SNL co-star Chris Farley, who died at the age of 33 in 1997 from a drug overdose. Sandler’s “quiet intensity” as he recalls anecdotes about Farley and rips a guitar solo over images of the comedian won him a rave in The Ringer. It might be too sentimental for some, but there are more subtle moments of humanity in the show. In a story he claims is true, Sandler remembers how he once rode a rollercoaster with another dad whose family had also chickened out at the last minute in the queue. The pair bond, and it feels like a moment that could have made for a sweet little scene in an indie film.

We also see him performing some of his routine on the New York subway, and under a disguise no-one stops to laugh at his weird songs, just regarding him as crazy. At the close of the special, Sandler sings directly to the audience, thanking them for growing old with him and still laughing at his dumb jokes. It’s a moment reminiscent of that ending to Jackass 3, when the gang take stock of their lives and find profundity in their collective dedication to silliness.

“[100% Fresh] has plenty of the d*ck jokes you’d expect, but it’s also (mostly) packed with the earnestness, honesty, and weirdness you find in his best work,” Vox concluded, with The Daily Dot adding: “100% Fresh suggests there’s a better path forward for [Sandler], one that combines the lowbrow, everyman quality of his early days with the spirit of where he is now.”

Sandler won’t be able to replicate the cult success of films like Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy; the world’s moved on from that kind of movie. But when he taps into his overgrown child nature – a guy who became a father while he was still a son – he has an endearing quality that will lead to more successful dramatic roles as he ages, and more interesting stand-up shows.

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