The narrative and thematic parallels between Hustle and previous Adam Sandler movies help show just how far he’s progressed in his career.
Warning: Spoilers for Netflix’s Hustle!
The narrative parallels between Hustle and The Longest Yard actually highlight just how far Adam Sandler has come over the course of his career. Adam Sandler is a man with an incredibly unique reputation. Early in his career, he was known as a one-note comic actor, due partially to Sandler angrily and aggressively yelling in most of his movies throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Over time that reputation has shifted thanks to a handful of far more impressive dramatic performances.
Although Sandler is primarily known for his comedies, he has branched out to explore other genres, too. Pixels incorporated elements of sci-fi, The Ridiculous 6 was a Western, and The Cobbler was fantastical—although it’s worth noting that each of these films bombed with critics and audiences alike. One of his most famous turns in recent years, however, was Uncut Gems, a crime thriller in which Sandler truly shone as a gambling-addicted New York jeweler. Although the actor-director has continued to put out critically panned comedies for Netflix in between his hits, Sandler’s performances in films like Uncut Gems, the animated Hotel Transylvania series, and now Hustle have done the heavy lifting in improving his public perception.
Though Hustle won’t change Adam Sandler’s career, it does highlight how far he’s come. This is primarily due to narrative parallels between Hustle and The Longest Yard, as well as behind-the-scenes factors that show Sandler’s growth as a producer. Though Hustle may not be the most impressive performance Sandler has ever given, it does show that he’s grown as an artist and is able to reflect on his career in key ways. Its overall quality is much better than that of The Longest Yard, and it shows that Sandler has learned how to best use his talents in that genre as well as more generally in relation to his career.
Though the general consensus about the actor has now shifted to conclude that Adam Sandler’s career is underrated, comparing Hustle to The Longest Yard shows his progress quite clearly. Both feature Sandler as a down-and-out former player who continues to love his chosen sport, and both act as redemption stories for his respective characters. However, Hustle isn’t about Sandler’s character recapturing his glory days, but about him imparting his wisdom to a younger athlete to try to prevent him from making similar mistakes. This shows that Sandler better understands which roles suit him as an actor, as playing a supposed NFL superstar in The Longest Yard simply wasn’t believable.
In addition, Hustle shows that Sandler has grown in his role as a producer on most of his own movies. Hustle stars many current NBA players, which is something that The Longest Yard failed to achieve. Though some NFL players did appear, they were all former players who had since moved on to acting, which served as a degree of separation from the sport being depicted. However, Hustle using current players makes the film feel more grounded and relevant to the real-life NBA and also proved to be a key aspect of the film’s marketing. This shows that Sandler has become savvier with regard to how to make his movies feel more credible to audiences.
Hustle might not be the film to elevate Sandler’s career further, but it continues a recent trend for him as an actor. In delivering a more dramatic role with only some fleeting moments of comedy, Sandler puts more focus on the sport than on his ability to make people laugh. As a result, Hustle combines the silly and the serious in a much greater balance than other sports films previously made by Adam Sandler.
Next: Hustle Movie Ending Explained (In Detail)
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