Adam Sandler Performs a Lizard in Netflix Parenting Musical – IndieWire

I’ll say this for the 2 animated motion pictures that Adam Sandler has now produced: No person else would’ve made them. 

2002’s “Eight Loopy Nights” could not have been in a position to maintain the tongue-in-cheek “Hanukkah doesn’t fully suck!” power of the gimmick track that impressed it (it seems that concept solely had sufficient oil to generate about three minutes of comedy, and never 76), nevertheless it’s nonetheless the one movie in regards to the Jewish holidays that I can title with out reaching. And now, at a time when children’ content material is extra generic than ever and Sandler’s Netflix deal has liberated him from no matter diploma of high quality management was as soon as exerted upon the pre-streaming likes of “Pixels” and “Grown Ups 2,” he’s returning to the world of cartoons with a considerably humorous, perversely family-friendly musical-comedy about all the ways in which fashionable mother and father are making their youngsters insane with nervousness. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Donald Glover attends GQ's Global Creativity Awards on April 06, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Martin Scorsese speaks at Robbie Robertson: A Celebration of His Life And Music at The Village Studios on November 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

On its face, “Leo” sounds just like the form of factor {that a} studio like Pixar or Illumination could be inclined to make in between sequels. It tells the story of a lazy 74-year-old lizard named Leonardo — Sandler, doing a septuagenarian riff on that one nice voice he at all times does — whose carefree existence within the fifth-grade classroom the place he’s served as a category pet since 1949 is turned the other way up by the horrible discovery that the common tuatara solely lives to be 75.

Leo decides to flee the terrarium that he shares along with his cynical turtle buddy Squirtle (Invoice Burr) and spend his remaining months free within the wild, however when the classroom’s soulless new substitute Mrs. Malkin (Cecily Sturdy) forces every of the scholars to take the lizard residence with them for the weekend as an train in private accountability, our reptilian buddy realizes that each one of those children are in determined want of his assist. 

In different fingers, that set-up would certainly result in a sequence of teachable moments about the fantastic thing about being your self. In “Leo,” which is co-directed by Robert Marianetti, David Wachtenheim, and American hero Robert Smigel (of “Triumph the Insult Comedian Canine” renown), it paves the way in which for Sandler to sing a vaguely Sondheim-like quantity about how annoying it’s when little children cry (pattern lyric: “Don’t cry/it’s actually annoying”). 

After all, Leo can solely talk with these children as a result of they perceive what he’s saying, which feeds into what turns into the film’s flimsy dramatic crux: Leo has one way or the other realized to talk English after being caught in fifth grade for greater than half a century like a bizarro universe Billy Madison (his largest criticism about “Charlotte’s Internet” being that “you need to hear about this scrumptious spider for days and also you get hungry eager about it”), however he tries to guard his secret by telling every scholar that he’s solely sharing his secret with them as a result of they’re additional particular. After all, what Leo’s actually doing is defending their emotions, which makes him responsible of the identical parental impulse that’s messed all of those children up within the first place. 

Leo and Squirtle have seen sufficient 10-year-olds come by means of their classroom to know that each technology might be divided into the identical fundamental characters (the favored imply lady, the eldest youngster whose mother and father by no means advised them to close up, the boy who at all times has Cheetos mud on his fingers, and so on.), however the fashionable world appears to have amped up these archetypes to harmful new ranges. Helicopter mother and father had been dangerous sufficient, however jittery Zane is pressured to go to high school with a sentient drone — a co-dependent flying robotic that turns into the closest factor this film has to a breakout star — who actually hovers over his shoulder throughout class and scares away potential buddies. Leo’s seen a whole lot of children who speak so much to maintain their insecurities quiet, however chatty Summer season has to sing (she’s performed by Sandler’s daughter Sunny). 

Like all the little ditties that pepper this film, her virtually Gilbert-and-Sullivan-speed quantity is cute and brief and refreshingly devoid of any form of “Let it Go”-sized aspirations. It’s onerous to think about that children will probably be impressed to commit any of those tunes to reminiscence (or beg to rewatch one thing that by no means proves to be even half as sticky as its lead character’s tongue), however as the daddy of a “Frozen”-pilled four-year-old I’m tempted to rely that as a constructive.

I’m much less tempted to forgive “Leo” for being so ambivalent over which certainly one of us it’s making an attempt to entertain. My four-year-old won’t be this movie’s audience (although its rendering of kindergarteners as senseless piranha-like maniacs amused me each time they confirmed up), however I’m hard-pressed to think about who the audience for this truly is. “Who is that this for?” is a query that’s solely requested by motion pictures that aren’t working in addition to they need to, nevertheless it begs itself each couple of minutes in “Leo,” which might’t resolve if it’s a film for youths about mother and father, or a film for mother and father about children. 

Smigel, Sandler, and Paul Sado’s episodic script not often fires on fairly sufficient cylinders to enchantment to each crowds on the identical time; many of the gags are too fifth-grade-funny to land for grown-ups (e.g. Ms. Malkin utilizing “hug-off” spray to fend off overly affectionate college students), and many of the messaging appears too centered on fashionable grownup foibles and/or Leo’s imminent loss of life from previous age for youths to really feel prefer it’s chatting with them. Like lots of the parenting philosophies it mocks, “Leo” works higher in principle than in apply. And like lots of the youngsters these parenting philosophies churn out, it fails to appreciate its full potential. 

Nonetheless, there’s no denying that Leo himself is a pleasant previous weirdo — the perfect film lizard this facet of Rango, regardless of being rendered with a fraction of the identical artistry — and that the film round him will get a whole lot of mileage from the distinction between its manic tempo and his molasses-slow mannerisms. The characters he meets alongside the way in which could be slightly stale (Jason Alexander voices a wealthy Dr. Zizmor kind who tries to purchase his daughter’s issues away, which evokes Leo to show her the heartrending lesson that the opposite children in school low-key hate her), however Leo is such a scaly little freak that his disgust for these folks is as reliably amusing as his tendency to glitch out each time something catches him without warning.

After all, the most important shock in retailer for the pet tuatara is that he’s about to study the identical lesson because the anxiety-addled children he tries to assist: We’re all born into our personal hellish terrariums, however there’s actual freedom in being heard by the folks (and sophistication pets) round you.

Grade: C+

“Leo” is now streaming on Netflix.

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