Like an aging fighter that steps into the ring on short notice, Robert Smigel’s The Week Of is overweight, unfocused and hungry for a paycheck. On the surface, everything seems in order, and why? Because performers like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Steve Buscemi are reliable. They can take a punch and come back swinging. Plus, they’ve got a long-time friend in the ring with them directing the action. But the latest collaboration between Happy Madison Productions and Netflix doesn’t have the heart of an old pro, nor does the film seem interested in meaningful dialogue. Instead, The Week Of relies on Boyhood-like nostalgia to keep viewers entertained.
Many viewers will surely appreciate The Week Of’s Long Island setting and New York vibes. While organizing his daughter’s wedding, Sandler’s Kenny Lustiger informs a guest that Manhattan is close but actually still a three-hour drive away with traffic. And that’s exactly how the film’s characters come across: recognizable but not quite reachable. The Week Of begins with a hospital sequence that feels better suited for a mid-film transition. Rock, portraying a wealthy surgeon named Kirby Cordice, operates while taking a phone call. Soon, his son will marry Kenny’s daughter, setting in motion a series of misunderstandings that inevitably lead to important life lessons. Plus, an elderly man who lost his legs from diabetes complications inadvertently becomes a war hero.
Though Smigel is mostly known for his comedy writing, The Week Of’s dialogue lacks imagination. Furthermore, there’s no sense of directorial style. It’s almost like the Happy Madison crew got together and said, “Who wants to direct the next film with a handheld camera?” Smigel then landed the job and essentially filmed his friends, which reminds me of when I filmed my family’s Thanksgiving dinner in high school: press “Record” and follow people around. Or perhaps it’s the narrative structure that distracts from Smigel’s camerawork. If you’re going to make a nearly two-hour long film, it’s crucial to have a sense of tonal rhythm. Unfortunately, The Week Of feels entirely messy, and many of the zingers don’t land as a result. Plus, the first effective joke, in my opinion, doesn’t come until the 50-minute mark. Too many characters, too much chaos. Rather than hooking the audience with genuine moments early on, the film’s best parts emerge sporadically in the second half. And while the most memorable Happy Madison productions are purely bizarre, The Week Of is bizarre in that nobody really seems invested in the project.
After all these years in the entertainment industry, why can’t Sandler sell a simple driving scene? Who rocks the steering wheel back and forth on the road? It’s these little things that add up, and even though a few gags channel that late 90s Sandler magic, The Week Of fails to build upon the momentum. It’s safe and predictable. And Rock could’ve easily livened up the film with more screen time, and more heart-to-hearts with his pal Sandler.
While I applaud The Week Of for its diversity, the film doesn’t sufficiently explore its core message. Smigel and company invite viewers in for a friendly conversation, only to check out early without caring too much about some real talk.
Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and Vague Visages’ founding editor. From 2014 to 2017, he wrote over 600 video scripts for WatchMojo, and he’s the author of their first e-book, WatchMojo’s 100 Decade-Defining Movie Moments of the 1990s. From 2006 to 2012, Q.V. lived in Hollywood, California and worked closely with ABC On-Air Promotions as the production manager for LUSSIER. He now resides in sunny Fargo, North Dakota and has written for RogerEbert.com, Fandor, Screen Rant and Crooked Marquee.