keeping the faith

Adam Sandler Finds Low-Key Triumph in You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah

By ceding the spotlight to his daughters and settling into dorky-dad mode, Sandler has officially made his highest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes.
Adam Sandler Idina Menzel Sunny Sandler Sadie Sandler Samantha Lorraine
Courtesy of Netflix

Just six short years ago, Adam Sandler’s preteen daughters couldn’t stomach watching his movies. “I'll put them on because they beg to see them,” Sandler told Ellen DeGeneres in 2017. “They’re like, ‘Please, it’s not fair! Let me watch your movies. Those people always yell things at you on the street. I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.’ So I show them the movies—they demand this—and they get, every time, I’d say about 20 minutes in, and then I see them tuning out, and then I hear them. They’re nervous to say it, but like, ‘Can we watch something else?’”

Perhaps they were on to something. By joining forces with his daughters—14-year-old Sunny and 17-year-old Sadie—in Netflix’s recently released You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, a comedy about the Jewish milestone, Sandler has reached one of his own: his highest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes to date. The film, directed by Sammi Cohen from a script by Alison Peck, currently holds a 96% “Certified Fresh” rating.

Sandler cheekily acknowledged his wobbly track record on the site with his 2018 Netflix comedy special, 100% Fresh, which scored a 90% rating. Sandler isn’t always a critical punching bag— last year’s Hustle scored 93%, his highest rating until Bat Mitzvah, and he’s had his brush with awards buzz thanks to projects like The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (92%), Uncut Gems (91%), and Punch-Drunk Love (79%). But when he goes on a tropical vacation with his buddies and turns it into a film, critics tend to notice—take Grown Ups (10%), Blended (15%), and Just Go With It (19%). 

Tonally, Bat Mitzvah falls somewhere in the middle of those genres. Based on Fiona Rosenbloom’s 2005 YA novel, the movie costars Sandler’s wife of 20 years, Jackie, his Uncut Gems costar Idina Menzel, and Saturday Night Live’s Sarah Sherman as progressive rabbi Rebecca. Sadie plays Ronnie Friedman, the wisecracking older sister to Sunny’s Stacy, the film’s emotional center. Stacy’s visions of dual dream bat mitzvahs with her best friend, Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), are dashed thanks to a public falling-out and the—naturally—blissfully unaware popular boy who comes between them.

Sunny and Sadie Sandler in You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.Scott Yamano/Netflix

Mining the same rocky adolescent terrain as this year’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, PEN15, and Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, the movie boasts a fizzy pop soundtrack of Olivia Rodrigo and Dua Lipa; a shocking menstruation-related mishap (I did gasp); and multiple scenes that brought tears to eyes strained from excessive laptop use. Plus, it contains the genuinely feel-good introduction of Sandler’s daughters as leading ladies, that pesky nepo-baby label be damned! Sadie channels her father’s comic timing into witty one-liners about the wisdom that comes with entering high school, while Sunny brings raw vulnerability to scenes of a friendship in free fall.

When the film’s director boarded the project, only Sunny and Sadie were reportedly attached (although presumably with the expectation that the famous Sandler with a lucrative preexisting Netflix deal would follow suit). Either way, Sandler makes it clear that his role in this story is a supporting one. He leaves the jittery, juvenile energy to his kids and shifts to a mode befitting the father in a narrative about Jewish womanhood. Sandler is Danny Friedman, a doting, dorky dad who pretends to spill coffee on himself just to coax a smile out of his downtrodden daughter. He wears bathrobes to the movie theater, quibbles over which tampons to buy, and offers John Hughes–worthy advice about growing up. The man-child schtick is nonexistent; there’s not a Rob Schneider cameo to be found. In depicting something closer to his current reality, Sandler plays in the proper key to let his daughters, and the movie itself, sing.

The film itself is at home in Sandler’s cinematic legacy of underdogs finding their place in the world. “I just have a natural part of my brain that feels like I don’t belong here,” he told Vanity Fair last October of the running theme across his three-decade career. “This feeling uncomfortable and loser stuff I’ve been doing for years, it’s in me.” The irony, of course, has been that playing losers has made Sandler a winner—and now his daughters, who will reunite with their dad for the upcoming animated film Leo, are part of the victory. Until now, Sandler has long been devoted to working with his friends—but future success may rely on keeping it in the family.