‘The Ridiculous 6’ Review | Dunces With Wolves

Adam Sandler wouldn’t be the first prominent movie star to make the transition to straight-to-video, but he might just be the first to consider it a lateral move. Typically, films that bypass theaters – especially those starring recognizable actors – have been considered to be, for the most part, substandard entertainment. Steven Seagal’s straight-to-video action thrillers generally aren’t regarded with the same respect as his Under Siege movies, and Ernest P. Whorrell was a heck of a lot funnier when he was saving Christmas and scared stupid than when he joined the Army or went to Africa.

But Netflix is on the rise, and it’s an increasingly respectable platform on which to premiere new content (see: this year’s serious awards contender Beasts of No Nation). We may be rapidly approaching a new era in which those old distinctions no longer apply, and Adam Sandler appears to be leading the charge in a very big way. Sandler’s new straight-to-streaming feature The Ridiculous 6 isn’t any worse than his theatrical films. It’s just as bad as always.

The only truly funny thing about this movie is the obvious amount of effort that went into making the same dumb jokes as usual. Sandler is often considered a comedian of the lowest common denominator, and frequently resorts to fecal humor, pop culture nostalgia and cheap sentimentality to placate and amuse a very broad audience. His durability as a performer has a lot to do with his consistency, and so it comes as no surprise that The Ridiculous 6 features wall-to-wall poop gags, awkward cameos, racial profiling and teary-eyed family melodrama.

What’s surprising is that The Ridiculous 6 also has aspirations, on some level, towards being a real western. It’s not a cheap production. Many competent sets were built, and action sequences were choreographed with damn near legitimacy. If The Ridiculous 6 actually had something to say about the western genre, it would have had a decent platform on which to sermonize. It’s a film that, technically speaking, could have had its cake and eaten it too.

But there’s a reason why so few films have been able to copy the enormous success of Blazing Saddles, and that’s because for all its scatological humor and racism, Blazing Saddles was making a point. It was arguing that the west was not a romantic locale but instead an uncomfortable hotbed of ignorance and hatred, and it told a tale of a hero (funny though he was) who used his wits to overcome the institutionalized adversity. Blazing Saddles got away with the dumb jokes because Blazing Saddles itself was never dumb. 

And yet a film like The Ridiculous 6 throws racist stereotypes out with no greater purpose than for you to laugh at how backwards those stereotypes are. At best, the film makes the assumption that you’re too good a person to laugh at The Ridiculous 6. At worst, it plays directly into grotesque ideologies. And everywhere in between, it’s just an inane movie with projectile blasts of wet burro feces. That’s hardly worth watching at the multiplex, where there may only be one comedy playing at any given time. On Netflix, where the competition easily outclasses The Ridiculous 6, coming up with a rationale to click on this movie instead of practically anything else is, or at least should be, a Herculean effort.

Between all the gags about Native American women named “Beaver Breath” and… oh, let’s just be polite and say “and so forth”… there’s a plot about “White Knife” (Sandler), a white man raised by Apaches whose father (Nick Nolte) unexpectedly returns, and is then immediately kidnapped. White Knife must acquire $50,000 to rescue his dad so he decides to become a bank robber along with what turns out to be five random men who also happen to have the same philandering dad. They steal from a thumb-obsessed Harvey Keitel. They play the first game of baseball. They run into Mark Twain, played (for some reason) by Vanilla Ice. And there’s even more wet burro feces.

The whole film is very episodic and meandering, like a play through of Red Dead Redemption that gets too focused on side quests. And then it concludes in a sequence that’s played for such high western drama that it wouldn’t be out of place in a proper spaghetti western. The movie is all over the place, honestly. The Ridiculous 6 is a hapless jumble of decent craftsmanship, confused writing, terrible jokes and casual mean-spirited jabs at every culture imaginable. And none of the action, the drama, or (with a careful application of quotation marks) “cultural commentary” serves any greater purpose than the burro’s projectile diarrhea does.

It’s actually rather amazing that Adam Sandler’s transition to straight-to-streaming content resulted in no change, positive or negative, to his usual brand of cinema. Maybe this is why critics have been so hard on his last ten years worth of live-action comedies: they feel more at home on video, where standards have traditionally been lower, than they do in the theater. Maybe this transition really is an improvement. At least on Netflix you’ll be able to turn the movie off without running up the stairs and strangling a projectionist.

Photos: Netflix

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.