Only Adam Sandler knows the real reason Adam Sandler is obsessed with celebrity cameos in his movies, but throughout the actor’s career, his ability to gracefully infuse them into his movies has fluctuated nearly as much as the quality of the films themselves. Which makes one wonder: does the quality/relevancy/background of a celebrity impact whether a Sandler movie is good or bad? Is there an event horizon of fame for a Sandler Cameo? To dissect this phenomenon and prepare for his latest effort, That’s My Boy (which features an extended part for Vanilla Ice, obviously), take a look back at a history of fly-by appearances in Sandler comedies. A great Sandler Cameo could be the key to a solid flick (or visa versa):
Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison
Rooted in Sandler cameo strategy is the “give my pal a part” mentality. If Sandler knows them and they work in Hollywood, they’ve probably had a part in one of his movies. Buscemi is the prime example of Sandler bonding with a former castrate (they worked together in Airheads) then later bringing them back for cameo roles. In this case, it isn’t distracting — Buscemi is a great actor who can slip in to nearly any scene — and having a caliber actor in a stupid movie is a smart joke in itself. Billy Madison came at a time before Sandler’s cameo-ing went entirely off the rails, and it stands as one of his best films.
Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore
“The price is wrong, b**ch.” Many of Sandler’s movies feature him in roles that are prime for interaction with celebrities. Sports stars, Hollywood talent, randomly rich guys — his movies always put him in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it stinks of starf**king. Sometimes it’s comedic genius. For the latter, see Happy Gilmore.
Billy Idol in Wedding Singer
Sandler took it back to the ’80s with The Wedding Singer, and instead of simply making a few pop culture references, he dropped the perfect cameo. Nostalgia may blind the favoritism towards this flick, but oh well.
Lawrence Taylor in Waterboy
Around The Waterboy, cameos in Sandler movies started becoming “a thing.” Maybe that’s why the appearance of Lawrence Taylor and other football-themed stars felt so off. Bobby Boucher plays college ball. Why do all these famous people keep showing up?! Right. Adam Sandler movie. Waterboy: official descent into “eh” territory.
Ozzy Osbourne, Regis Philbin, Henry Winkler, Quentin Tarantino in Little Nicky
In a movie where anything can happen, anything does happen, and watching familiar celebrities pop up in Sandler’s deranged charade only adds to the shock value. Can’t…look…away….
Robert Smigel in Punch-Drunk Love
Sandler’s collaboration with P.T. Anderson saw the actor take on a darker side of his manic personality, and to wondrous results. Even more gratifying was writer/actor Robert Smigel’s cameo as the dentist, a fun in-joke for those well-versed in SNL history. This was the positive type of friend cameo and easily the best film Sandler has ever done.
John McEnroe, Al Sharpton in Mr. Deeds
The balancing act. On one hand, a Sandler pal (McEnroe has cameoed in several of his films) who serves no purpose in the movie, in general and a funny riff on the personality of a public figure (Sharpton). The movie happens to also balance the line between “good” and “bad.”
Derek Jeter, Rudy Giuliani in Anger Management
Anger Management gets a gravitas bump from the presence of Jack Nicholson, but featuring two homegrown heroes in one of Sandler’s few New York City movies is a nice nod to those who put up with enormous Hollywood trailers parked in front of their apartment buildings every other week of the year. Thanks, Sandler!
James Earl Jones in Click
Classy actor, disappointing movie, which one would think is in direct competition to the scientific theory presented here. But remember this: Jones is only present as the narrator of the movie. Perhaps if they had gone full on on-screen cameo, things would have been different…
George Takei, Bruce Vilanch in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
A dim-witted comedy with an outlandish premise and more laughs than anyone anticipated, the appearance of George Takei and Bruce Vilanch may be a bit insulting if it didn’t come off as weird and goofy as the rest of the movie. They’re the living embodiment of non sequiturs.
Carmen Electra in Bedtime Stories
Listed in the credits as “Hot Girl.” Yes, this movie is just that lazy.
Ray Romano, Eminem in Funny People
Sandler threw a dramatic curveball when he paired up with longtime friend Judd Apatow for this introspective tale about a comedian dying of cancer. While it still packs a few random faces, in the hands of Apatow (and the story), they’re perfectly and hilariously fitting.
Everyone in Grown-Ups
A movie obsessed with “oh, that guy!” reactions over actual narrative, Grown-Ups stood as one of the low points in Sandler’s careers…until the movies that came after it.
Heidi Montag in Just Go with It
Much like Montag, I have little recollection of this movie happening.
Johnny Depp in Jack and Jill
Easily one of the biggest “gets” in Sandler’s career, Depp’s appearance in the 2011 Razzie-sweeper was bizarre enough to even trump a horny Al Pacino in a beard. A-List star, Z-List movie.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures, New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures ]