Netflix’s “Hustle” is the latest in a long line of Adam Sandler films made by “Happy Madison,” but it violates one of the actor’s most legendary traditions. The basketball drama collects some of the best reviews of Sandler’s career and continues the successful series that began with “Uncut Jewels” in 2019. Although both Happy Madison Productions and Sandler himself are best known for their wacky comedies, Hustle is more like a classic sports drama.
Hustle starred several major NBA stars, as well as many famous actors. Together with LeBron James and with the participation of current players such as Juancho Hernangomes and Anthony Edwards, it is clear that the creative group behind Hustle wanted to strive for authenticity. Compared to most productions of Happy Madison, “Hustle” is a surprisingly straightforward drama about following your dream and about the price at any price.
However, Hustle interrupts a long series for Adam Sandler and his production company. Unlike most Happy Madison Productions films released over the past few decades, “Hustle” doesn’t feature Sandler’s wife, Jackie, anywhere. It has become a kind of tradition for Sandler to include at least one family member in most of his films, and Jackie Sandler appears most often, even if it is a small role. Hustle suddenly breaks with this practice.
Generally speaking, Sandler’s family members are a common thing in his films. Sandler met his wife Jackie while working together on “Big Daddy” in 1999. After that fateful project, the duo starred in many films together. Everything from “Little Nicky” and “50 First Kisses” to “Murder Mystery” and “Hubie’s Halloween” is dedicated to this couple. The couple’s two daughters, Sadie and Sunny, are also taking part in the action. The girls even appeared in films unrelated to Happy Madison, such as “Bedtime Stories” and the films “Hotel Transylvania”. With the exception of a short scene where Sunny appears as a “Greek girl of 13,” the only Sandler in “Hustle” is an SNL graduate.
Their absence in Hustle can perhaps be explained by the fact that Happy Madison’s forte is comedy. Created in 1999, it is a fusion of two popular Sandler comedies of the 90s: “Lucky Gilmore” and Billy Madison. While the production company has dipped into less comedic projects in the past, the last standout drama they released was 2007’s Reign Over Me. When Adam Sandler showed that he is a great actor, with the help of non-comedic roles in the past, Jackie also did not appear in these films; when it’s a production not related to “Happy Madison,” the actor has less influence on who appears in the cast. In such dramas as “Love, drunk from head to toe” and “Uncut Jewels”, there are some of Sandler’s most favorite roles. Happy Madison’s return to the dramatic game was only a matter of time.
While Jackie Sandler has starred in the vast majority of her husband’s films, Hustle stands apart as an interesting exception. She’s usually there when Happy Madison Productions is involved. This is a significant departure from tradition, even if their daughter, Sunny, eventually sneaked into the credits.