There’s nothing highbrow about “Adam: Sandler: 100% Fresh,” which could probably be ascertained from its title. Both the “Adam Sandler” part and the “100% Fresh” one.
A less tongue-in-cheek name for the veteran comic’s new Netflix special might have been “100% Sandler,” a dose that usually clocks in at a ratio of about 80 percent fresh, 20 percent cringe. But Sandler knows that, and it’s all part of his charm. As a perfectly representative hour of its namesake, “100% Fresh” is effortlessly hilarious— even if you’re the kind of person who needs your comedy certified by Rotten Tomatoes (more on that later).
Sandler has aged from America’s class clown into America’s funniest carpool dad. The jokes are predictably dumb. There’s a rap called “Phone, Wallet, Keys,” a song about “UFC ears,” and bits about erotic hula hooping, talking babies, and pissing in the shower. But they’re dumb to the point of being funny because they’re also self-aware.
That’s critical. When Rob Schneider floats on stage dressed as an astronaut to perform a duet about “Spaceship 69,” it’s a struggle for both men not to break at the sheer absurdity of the bit. And lest you think Sandler’s dad jokes are the kind of dad jokes you can say around kids, he sneaks in a few explicit gags that could go toe-to-toe with any shock comic’s.
Even for their characteristic inanity, his punchlines are clever— but many of the jokes also funny for the simple fact that he actually bothered to come up with them. At one point, Sandler sings an upbeat, Wonka-esque tune that involves him listing just about every candy you can imagine before ending on the curveball: “The doctor says I’ve got diabetes.” It’s not a bad (or especially great) punchline on its own, but what’s funnier is that he wrote and performed an entire song around it.
The format is a little exhausting, vaulting to different performances in different cities with each new bit (or even multiple times within one bit). But “100% Fresh” ultimately amounts to a solid hour of the mindless, everyman comedy Sandler has mastered.
It may be mindless, but it’s not heartless. Sandler sends his audience off on two songs that are as funny as they are moving: The first, a tribute to his friend Chris Farley, and the second, a tribute to his wife. Both are touching, but the song for Farley stings in a beautiful way. (“We told him ‘slow down, you’ll end up like Belushi and Candy,’ he said, ‘Those guys are my heroes, it’s all fine and dandy.’”) It’s wistful but irreverent, accented hauntingly by an earnest guitar solo pulled straight from Sandler’s heart onto the strings.
Maybe that’s why we keep padding his bank account. Sandler is a funny guy, but he’s likable in a way a lot of comics aren’t. At the end of the final number, the song for his wife, Sandler tells the crowd, “This goes for all you guys here tonight,” before tenderly singing, “Thanks for growing old with me.”
The title “100% Fresh” is a nod to Rotten Tomatoes, where Sandler has received more than his share of less-than-fresh scores. But as of this writing, “100% Fresh” is ironically rated pretty high, at 92 percent fresh. Critics have loved it.
Some of Sandler’s most recognizable films have glaringly wide disparities between the scores of critics and audiences. But “100% Fresh’s” audience rating is also sitting just as high as its critic rating, all the way at 91 percent. I’ll stand up for “Little Nicky,” “Mr. Deeds,” and “The Waterboy” any day of the week, but it should tell us something about Sandler’s talents that among dozens of films, the 73 minutes of his career that involve just him, a guitar, and a little piano accompaniment have drawn near universal praise.