The best jest comes early, with a main title that announces “The Ridiculous 6: Presented in 4K” — a humorous poke at Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming “Glorious 70mm” superproduction The Hateful Eight. Then the slog begins, which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the idle oeuvre that is Adam Sandler’s.
This satirical Western is the first in a — God help us — four-picture deal that the loosely termed “comedian” has carved out with Netflix. And despite the mini tempest that emerged during filming, when a group of Native American performers walked off the set because of the Sandler–co-written script’s perceived racial slights, we should perhaps be thankful the movie turns out to be as inoffensively lazy as it is. No one emerges especially worse for wear because the entire production is wholly apathetic to everything from a compelling story to sharp comic timing. “Why bother?” Sandler and his collaborators seem to be asking over the course of a very long two hours. And streaming viewers will hopefully respond in kind.
Strange to accuse a film of indifference when it features a Native American character named Beaver Breath, as well as a scene in which guest star Steve Buscemi (in one of the movie’s many check-cleared-yet? cameos) lubes up the anus of an incontinent burro. But everything and everyone follows Sandler’s lead: As adopted Indian warrior White Knife, he walks around with the same detached, hangdog expression that suggests he’s eyeing the brewski and easy chair just off-camera. His character lives a relatively peaceful existence with his adopted family and soon-to-be-wife Smoking Fox (Julia Jones), though he often thinks back to the time when a mysterious bandit murdered his mother in cold blood. Then a career bank robber, and White Knife’s long-lost father, Frank Stockburn (a mopey Nick Nolte, who seems to think he’s doing Eugene O’Neill) rides into his life with a story to tell.
Turns out, first of all, that our hero’s real name is Tommy. But more importantly, says his grizzled pa, is the $50,000 that’s buried beneath “the singing windmill.” Ooo, a quest! And after Frank is kidnapped by a marauding, money-grubbing gang led by, of course, Danny Trejo, Tommy takes it upon himself to find the cash and trade for his father’s freedom. But wait, now. Isn’t this movie called The Ridiculous 6? Yes indeed, and Tommy soon meets up with the additional five characters who will make up his own band of merry men. They also all happen to be his half-brothers because Tommy’s dad was quite the ladies man.
Taylor Lautner, Terry Crews, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson and Jorge Garcia are the lucky quintet who get to pal around with Sandler while a movie goes on around them. They seem to be having fun — Lautner especially with his Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel impersonation. (The scene in which that aforementioned burro orally pleasures the former Twilighter is certainly … something.) But their self-amusement never translates to genuine laughs.
Director Frank Coraci just lets the camera run, seemingly hoping that each loosely connected vignette (facing off with some Will Forte-led bandits who’ve scooped their right eyes out; stealing a large gold nugget from hot-tempered saloon owner Harvey Keitel) will tickle someone’s funny bone. I’ll admit I giggled slightly when Vanilla Ice showed up as a hip-hop styled Mark Twain because it seemed like a conceit Mel Brooks would have devised for Blazing Saddles. Brooks’ coarse classic is a high low bar for any farce to reach. Most of the time, Sandler and company barely even try to make the leap.