The news that Adam Sandler has attached himself to the Chris Columbus-directed remake of the Korean comedy Hello Ghost makes me hopeful that Sandler is going to finally begin to listen to the people at the studios releasing his movies, about widening the circle of filmmakers he works with. Let’s face it, the movies micromanaged by his Happy Madison banner have become too formulaic, and they seem to mostly please Razzies voters these days. I’m a fan of Sandler’s, I just haven’t wanted to see his films lately. I was not a fan of the first Grown-Ups, despite its box office success, and can’t imagine the sequel will rise above the level of derivative retread. Recent films — Jack And Jill being the low-water mark — hold no real promise of surprises like we’ve seen the first Hangover, Bridesmaids, Ted, or the just-opened This Is The End. Sandler has worked with filmmakers like Judd Apatow and Paul Thomas Anderson on more serious fare, but the Happy Madison comedy formula needs an overhaul. Columbus could help Sandler out of a rut. He too has made some stinkers, but Columbus has succeeded often enough — from the first two Home Alone films to Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone and others — to imagine he might help elevate Sandler’s game, if the star and his posse loosen the reins and trust the filmmaker. Hello Ghost has a script by One True Thing scribe Karen Croner, and Sandler will play a man whose failed suicide attempt allows him to see ghosts who haunt him until he grants each of them one wish. A promising premise, in the right hands.
Superstars have to be really careful these days about the movies they make and who directs them, because star power is fleeting and the wrong choice can be calamitous. Back when Will Smith hitched his wagon to M. Night Shyamalan on After Earth, many raised eyebrows because that filmmaker had three flops in a row. Now Shyamalan has four in a row, and Smith is scrambling for a surefire hit to reestablish himself as the world’s biggest movie star (Independence Day sequel, anyone?) Gone are the days when these superstars could inflict self-indulgent passion projects and expect their audiences to keep coming back for more punishment. When Sandler made the fresh and funny The Wedding Singer, I thought he was going to translate his off-the-wall Saturday Night Live persona into a reliable supplier of subversively funny comedies. And evolve like, say, Bill Murray, doing things nobody expects. He’s had a few good ones, but you need to invite in and listen to new voices and viewpoints to sustain and Happy Madison seems a “my way or the highway” shop. Sandler certainly seems like a nice guy, and not surprisingly he employs the same actors, writers and directors over and over like a repertory company. The danger in doing the same thing too long, is, in the words of Opera Man, “Bye Bye.”