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A lament for Adam Sandler.

A lament for Adam Sandler. (photo)

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Out of all the people rolling in and out of “Saturday Night Live” in the ’90s, it wasn’t immediately obvious that Adam Sandler would be the break-out of the bunch. In an infamous 1995 profile of the show in New York, Sandler didn’t come off noticeably worse than the other cast members, but he was portrayed as lazy, just waiting for the writing meetings to be over so that he could get his drink on. Since then, though, he’s displayed nothing if not a Murdoch-ian business acumen for gambiting low stakes against high returns.

Critics of his SNL time — where, if nothing else, he gave the world Opera Man — would complain that he didn’t have much range, but that was nothing compared to the idiot’s delight streak (“Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore” and the rest), in which Sandler rode his success to unexpected heights.

Sandler’s comic persona is weirder and more spikily unlikeable than his frequently flat delivery would suggest. Punctuated by sudden bursts of uncontrollable anger, his regressive approach to adult life suggests not just childishness but something more sinister, a rage which conceals itself under puckishness. He beats the crap out of those who mess with the weak and rages against the machine, traits P.T. Anderson would pick up on and amplify in “Punch Drunk Love.”

Sandler seemed suddenly addicted to the idea that he, too, could go one for him and one for them: two years later he gave an excellent straight performance in “Spanglish” (though no one seemed to notice, being too busy hating the movie), went “full retard” for “Reign O’er Me” (ditto, though substitute “indifference” for “hate”) and then deconstructed his entire persona with “Funny People.”

06252010_spanglish.jpgNo one can blame the man, then, for having taken four leaps for the brass ring and failed financially every time. His brand has, otherwise, proven surprisingly durable: Fandango sent out a release today saying that advance sales for “Grown Ups” (aka, “Anything But What This Title Normally Means”) are twice those of “Knight & Day.” Evidently, a consistently childish persona — the career equivalent of playing Robin Williams’ “Jack” every time for 15 years straight — wears a little bit better than the cool patina.

But it’s regrettable — out of the five grown-ups here, Sandler has the most range and potential. No one expects greatness from Kevin James or thespianism from Chris Rock; as for Rob Schneider, he’s to be congratulated on still having a career. (The unmatchably snide David Spade will always have a place in my heart, though why anyone ever thought he could be a one-man comic star is beyond me.)

Sandler’s career is littered with what-ifs, like: what if it was him and not Jamie Foxx in “Collateral”? (Answer: Sandler might’ve actually had a hit dramatic role.) Instead, it’s 15 years later and it’s 1995 all over again. Forget “MacGruber”: “Grown Ups” is the real SNL movie of the year. So it goes.

[Photos: “Saturday Night Live,” NBC, 1975-present; “Spanglish,” Columbia, 2004]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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