by Gabriel Valdez
In the first five minutes, hell – the first 30 seconds – “The Ridiculous 6” establishes itself as intentionally offensive. The new Adam Sandler movie is a Western spoof, and these first five minutes involve racial slurs, unwanted groping of a woman, and rape threats of her by five men.
Now, the racial slurs might be claimed as “historical accuracy,” but nothing else in the film is concerned with any kind of historical accuracy. More importantly, those slurs are used in ways that aren’t historically accurate. So, there’s really no leg to stand on here, though I’m sure someone will try.
Here’s one of the film’s early jokes:
Attempted rapists call an Apache woman “Pocahotness.” Don’t worry, her real name is “Smoking Fox.” She’s saved by the white orphan her tribe raised. That’s Adam Sandler. His name is “White Knife.” He’s special. Why? Because he’s better at everything his tribe does than they are. He can run at super speeds, throw knives with pinpoint accuracy, and shoot arrows and catch them in his teeth.
Indigenous Americans are posed as warlike and savage. When a white traveler happens upon their tribe’s riverside camp, everyone hollers and brandishes a weapon, including a toddler with a hatchet at the ready. That’s all these people are, the film says: violent, savage, uncultured. Adam Sandler is our window into their souls, and he is better at all they do than they are because he is among them, but not of them.
All the Apache women want him, but they don’t want the actual Apache men they’re with. The white man among them has genetic supremacy, breeding supremacy. Breeding supremacy is the kind of shit we once argued so that we could justify the rape of indigenous peoples. By forcing them to have half-white babies, the idea was we were breeding the genetically inferior parts of them out. It’s “Manifest Destiny: The Fucking Movie.”
There are some jokes at the expense of whites, but the film uses these briefly and early before forgetting them, as if to clean the slate so that it can get away with being profoundly racist toward the Apache and then say, “Oh, but we made two jokes about whites.”
Take Rob Schneider. He plays a Mexican who has sex with donkeys. When we first meet the donkey, it shits all over the wall for 10 seconds. That’s his special power. The donkey projectile shits all over people. Mexicans, amirite?
Poor Taylor Lautner, who actually delivered a decent parkour film earlier this year in “Tracers,” is the leading Native American actor in the film. The first thing we learn about his character is that he’s a virgin (breeding supremacy). Actually, the first thing we learn about him is that he’s mentally handicapped (genetic supremacy). Don’t worry, though, he’ll get a blowjob from the donkey in his second scene while Rob Schneider looks on approvingly and pets the donkey. A Native American actor, a Mexican character, and animal sex. Only the white actor playing a white man looks on disapprovingly.
The joke is that all of these people are White Knife’s brothers from different women. In order to rescue their father, they need to band together and steal $50,000.
Jorge Garcia is next. The Chilean/Cuban actor made famous by being the most charming character in “Lost” here plays a mentally handicapped man who can communicate only in grunts (genetic supremacy). The joke is his mother’s too ugly for anyone to have ever had sex with her (breeding supremacy). Yes, there are two mentally handicapped characters in the film, treated with all the sensitivity of a boot.
Luke Wilson and Terry Crews join on as the final two brothers. Thankfully, Crews gets away without too much racism aimed his way (aside from sexual stereotypes). There’s even a scene where Crews reveals to the others he’s Black, just in case they were thinking of making slurs without knowing. Given the cachet Crews has in the industry, one has to imagine he wouldn’t have done the movie if the same hate was directed toward Black characters.
Others don’t have that sway. Here are the other Apache women named:
They’ll come across a man in the wilds inventing baseball. He’s got a team of Chinese workers, but they need a team to play against. The jokes contained here are that the Chinese are bad at everything (genetic supremacy), scared of the ball, and they’re short (breeding supremacy). What wit.
The jokes about baseball itself actually work. Because he keeps losing, the inventor makes the rules more and more complicated as he goes. It’s a rare moment of actual wit and creativity in an otherwise profoundly lazy-ass film.
The only other humor that works:
“Sometimes, the white man speaks the truth. Like, one in 20, 25 times. I believe this is one of those times.” In fact, any of the lines Saginaw Grant says work – he’s the most accomplished comedian here. He gets about three real jokes, two of them aimed at whites. These are the only jokes made about whites in the whole film. That’s fewer instances than Rob Schneider sings about a fucking taco tree.
The pairing of Will Forte and Steve Zahn as outlaws is effective, though very underutilized. Really, a buddy film about their characters and interplay might have been more worthwhile.
That’s all I’ve got on things that work.
There are things that should work, but don’t because the film’s already lost so much trust. The stunt casting of Vanilla Ice as Mark Twain fails. David Spade as General Custer is pointless. Whitney Cummings is essentially used to show off her breasts. It’s all just names on the packaging that get you to watch and wait around for their 30 seconds apiece of screen-time.
Regardless of all this, the film is already dragging inside the first 10 minutes. Most of what Adam Sandler does is stand still, look stoic (read: disinterested), and grumble. Sandler has done anger surprisingly well as a dramatic actor – just look at “Punch Drunk Love.” Yet it’s something he can’t succeed with at a comedic level. That’s especially true at this point in his career, when he’s sleepwalking through so many roles for the paycheck. Whatever manic energy he was able to capture when young has left him. There’s nothing he brings to this that any other comedic actor couldn’t double.
Even without commentary on its negative social value, the film just doesn’t work as a comedy – even in the Adam Sandler style. It’s a shame Crews, Garcia, Lautner (yes, Lautner), and Wilson aren’t used in different ways. Sandler and Schneider are sleepwalking through this. The number of missed opportunities later in the film is ridiculous.
As a satire, it’s non-functional. It doesn’t understand anything more than the most basic cliches of a Western. It has nothing to say and it doesn’t understand what it’s lampooning. Less than five minutes of making fun of baseball – that’s really the only satirical thing that you’re sitting through the film to see.
Your time is far better spent re-watching “Blazing Saddles,” a film that understood its genre, why satire exists, and didn’t struggle with the most basic comedic timing in acting and filmmaking.
Or stick with “The Lone Ranger,” which had so much more to say than critics realized and boasted some beautiful cinematography and action scenes. Or check out Natasha Leggero’s “Another Period” for this style of genre satire done right. Or just watch “Drunk History” for something with a true awareness of how the world sees it.
“The Ridiculous 6” is hands-down the worst movie I’ve seen this year, and I had to watch Nicolas Cage’s Chinese martial arts epic.
Does it Pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
If you read my reviews, you know I’d normally give this section a more thorough rundown. “The Ridiculous 6” doesn’t deserve it. There are a few lines shared between women, but they’re all about how desirous they are of Adam Sandler. This film forgets women except during brief moments to make fun of the idea that women have sexuality or to pose women as damsels to be saved from rape and murder.