Is Adam Sandler Headed into Eddie Murphy Territory?

(Getty Images)more pics » That's the face of someone who knows he just made a crap movie.
The saying that goes something like "those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it" was surely meant for more important and lasting matters than the career of Adam Sandler, but it still applies. It's been in front of our faces for awhile now, but with the disaster that is Sandler's new film Jack & Jill, it's official: He's going Eddie Murphy on it.

Once thought of as a genius who could do no wrong, Murphy's career has become the punchline to jokes funnier than anything he's done since the '80s. Thank god for DVD players and TNT marathons because the last 15 years have all but undone the comedic goodwill Murphy fostered in his breakout roles. It's like he stopped reading scripts and just started cashing the checks, which is sadly seems to be the case for Sandler as well. (How else can you explain Zohan?)

No acting resume is without a few stinkers, but why haven't these guys made a well-written movie that capitalizes on the talents that gave them their start in the first place. Is it just a case of "selling out? Did they just get lucky early, or is a dramatic decline inevitable? It's time we examine the trajectories of both actors in an attempt to understand their slide into mediocrity and hopefully save Sandler before he goes full Murphy.

Everything was a-ok when Beverly Hills Cop I came out. It made a profit of 300%... part III, 50%. The Golden Age
If this were 1988, following Eddie Murphy's lead would have been one of the biggest compliments a comedian could receive; Murphy was the most in-demand actor of the era. Eveything he touched turned to gold, and he had that rare power in Hollywood where he could do any project he wanted for any amount of money he requested, so it was no surprise to see Sandler start from the same place.

Like Murphy, Sandler used his Saturday Night Live cred to make the jump to the big screen, and their first film roles didn't stray too far from what made them popular on the late night sketch show: Murphy, the fast-talking, irreverent, brash but boyish wiseass, and Sandler, the connoisseur of elevated toliet humor and ridiculous characters, who struck a balance of innocence and volatility through his trademark voices and disgruntled screams.

Each actor opened their leading man career with now iconic roles: For Murphy, it was Trading Places (1983), Beverley Hills Cop (1984), and Coming to America (1988); and for Sandler it was Billy Madison (1995) Happy Gilmore (1996), and The Wedding Singer (1998). The hallowed trifecta for each actor not only raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit, but were generally lauded by critics.

So far, so good, but the massive success of their early films pushed them so far on top that they started to lose their way.

Unfortunately, Eddie Murphy was two decades late to the Vampire craze. The Slide
After Coming to America, Eddie Murphy got it in his head that he needed to branch out, and as the most famous actor of his time, no studio or agent or manager was going to advise him otherwise. He experimented with spins on the gangster movie (Harlem Nights), the romantic comedy (Boomerang), and the horror spoof (Vampire in Brooklyn), each falling flat.

Murphy fell into the ego trap, thinking he was better, smarter, and more versatile than the people around him. Beverly Hills Cop III was his first major disappointment both critically and commercially, and director John Landis attributed its lack of comedy to Murphy's changing attitude: "The guy on Trading Places was young and full of energy and curious and funny and fresh and great. The guy after Coming to America was the pig of the world – the most unpleasant, arrogant, bullshit entourage… just an asshole."

No one went around disparaging Sandler, which shows that he managed to learn something from his predecessor, but he still got stuck in a realm of hype and success that clouded his judgement when it came to picking movies. He too tried a series of lighthearted romantic comedies (Mr. Deeds, 50 First Dates, Spanglish) and went with one note characters that didn't translate (Little Nicky, Anger Management).

Eddie bought into his own hype, and it hurt him, which explains why 1996's The Nutty Professor featured more characters played by Eddie than not. Megalomania makes you believe you're the best person for everything. Sandler bought into the idea that broadening his likablity would make him funnier, mistakenly thinking that big budgets and big studios would equal big comedy. 

Apparently Eddie Murphy thinks a whole movie of this is supposed to be funny. Weren't You Guys Funny?
Murphy's ego pushed him away from good projects and good people, and then came the string of family friendly films. Perhaps it was having a family of his own, or maybe it was to save face from his 1997 arrest for picking up a transvestite hooker, but Murphy completely rebranded himself as Mr. PG. Daddy Day Care, Dr. Doolittle, Haunted Mansion, Imagine That… anyone hoping to get the old Eddie was stuck watching bad jokes and unfortunate physical comedy.

And the same thing happened to Sandler fans, who were saddled with formulaic flicks like Click and Bedtime Stories or devolved humor of Zohan and Chuck & Larry. It's as if Murphy and Sandler had retired the edgy, irreverent, witty humor that made them famous for cheap laughs and sad physical comedy, the kind of dumbed down, lowest common denominator stuff that alienates once loyal fans. Murphy just did it eight years earlier, which makes Sandler's comic crimes almost worst.

At least with Sandler, fans could always say, "At least he didn't do a Norbit," or at least they could before the trailer for Jack & Jill came out. Like Murphy in Norbit, one of the worst reviewed, commercially unsuccessful films of the decade, Jack & Jill appears to be simply an excuse for Sandler to cut a check and dress in drag. How the project got green-lit is a shock in itself, but why Sandler is following the same craptastic path Murphy has is an even bigger mystery.

It's not real... yet. Is There Hope?
Unlike Eddie Murphy, Sandler seems more self-aware of his bad choices (which is probably another reflection of Murphy's bloated ego). I mean, the character Sandler played in 2009's Funny People is exactly who he's become as an actor, which is both good and bad. If Sandler knows how bad Jack & Jill is, then that means he is aware enough to know a good film when he sees one; however it also means he might not care about anything more than cashing that check.

For Murphy, his resume has plenty more bombs on it than Sandler's, but he still got an Oscar nod in '06 for Dreamgirls. Maybe his upcoming Tower Heist will be the answer, although I wouldn't trust Brett Ratner with reviving anyone's career.

The answer for both, really, is to get back to their roots, which leaves us with this humble suggestion: Host SNL. Please. We miss you. Comedy misses you.

See more Adam Sandler photos:
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler and Family on the Set of 'I Hate You Dad'
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler Films 'I Hate You Dad'
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg filming in Boston
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler on set in Boston
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg film in Boston
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler in Manchester
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler on Set
  • Adam Sandler in Adam Sandler Out At Brentwood Country Mart
See more Eddie Murphy photos:
  • Eddie Murphy in "Tower Heist" World Premiere
  • Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy Out for Coffee in LA
  • Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy at Kevin Hart's Black Carpet Event in LA
  • Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy at Mastro's Steakhouse
  • Eddie Murphy in Celebrities At The Lakers Game
  • Eddie Murphy in Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers - Game One
  • Eddie Murphy in Nickelodeon's 24th Annual Kids' Choice Awards - Show
  • Eddie Murphy in The First Annual Comedy Awards - Show

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