My kids finally understand my obsession with Adam Sandler — and it’s all thanks to the new animated movie Leo on Netflix.
You see, I’m a diehard Adam Sandler fan. My TikTok handle is a play on a name from The Wedding Singer. My husband and I have owned every Adam Sandler movie that’s ever existed, VHS and beyond. And rarely does a week go by in our household that isn’t sprinkled with Sandler-isms (i.e., “That information really would have been more useful to me YESTERDAY,” “Now that’s what I call high-quality H20”).
Since becoming a parent, I’ve always sort of assumed I would one day pass my love of Adam Sandler on to my kids but also accepted that would likely come later in their lives.
Sure, at 10 and 12, they’ve watched (and loved) all of the Hotel Transylvania movies. Hubie Halloween is part of our requisite fall viewing. Sandler’s kid-friendly titles to this point have been great… but let’s be real, they’re not classic Sandler, which makes sense.
Then along came Leo.
In this coming-of-age animated movie, Sandler plays the title character: a curmudgeonly 74-year-old iguana who’s been a fifth-grade class pet longer than he can remember. When he realizes his days may be numbered, he hatches an elaborate plan to escape so he can fulfill his dream of life outside a terrarium. But before he makes his great escape, he gets to know the anxious students in his classroom… and a new kind of bucket list emerges.
On the surface, you might be wondering how this is any more Sandler-esque than his other kids’ movies. For starters, there’s the music, reminiscent of some of Sandler’s early ‘90s SNL favorites such as “The Chanukah Song” and “Lunch Lady Land” (more on the latter in a minute).
Then there are the many Sandler-verse Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the movie: the Hubie Halloween helmet, an iPad screen with a review for Grown Ups 12, a Chubbs bobblehead in Summer’s bedroom, and Nick Swardson — who’s been in nearly every Sandler movie over the last two decades — voicing second-grade pet rabbit Cinnabun.
But maybe this animated movie feels like peak Sandler because he poured his heart and soul into it. Just ahead of Leo’s release, the iconic actor let me pick his brain about class pets, his classic characters, and more.
Scary Mommy: Did you ever have a class pet growing up?
Adam Sandler: I was more of a kid who would see the class pet and let the other children play with it. I’d be like, “I’m not sure I want to touch that thing.”
But when I was little, not in class, I had a kingsnake from when I was 4 to 6. His name was Ralph, and he was my best friend. He used to crawl around; he’d slither all around me. I was very comfortable. Then I moved as a kid, and we couldn’t bring the snake, so I had to say goodbye. And ever since I said goodbye to him, I’ve been afraid of snakes, worms, all that.
If anything is too quick, I get [freaked out]. All I do is pet my dog now. That’s where I’m comfortable.
SM: Ah, the secret phobia comes out! I watched this with my two kids, who are 10 and 12, and we all loved it for different reasons. How important was it to you that this movie had something for literally every age?
AS: I watch a lot of these movies with my kids, and it’s fun. It’s great when you can all be focused together and talk about lines you like and feelings you have. The movie tries to entertain you with comedy, but it tries to feel some tender moments at times, too. And it’s nice to share that with your kids or see your kids well up with tears for a second. I think that was the goal.
This movie was very important to us because we knew it was something that might connect hard with families, and we just didn’t want to let everybody down. So, we said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime premise; let’s work hard” to try to make it as good as we could.
SM: As a lifelong Adam Sandler fan, I felt like Leo was a fun, age-appropriate way to share signature Sandler with our kids. So, speaking of your classics, if you were a class pet, who would you rather have take you home for a week: Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, or Bobby Boucher?
AS: I say out of those three, Bobby Boucher would take the best care of the pet. He seems to have the most decency out of everybody. So, let’s go with Boucher. Though, I don’t know how Mama would feel about that. I think Mama actually made a meal out of a snake one time, so I guess maybe keep Mama out of the room. But Bobby will take care of things.
SM: Your daughters star alongside you in the movie. How do Sadie and Sunny compare to their characters?
AS: Oh, they’re not like those girls. The character that Sadie plays is an elitist, bratty girl. Sadie’s not like that at all. She’s pretty nice and kind and cares about everybody around her. And Sunny’s character talks too much, and Sunny doesn’t have that going on.
We thought it’d be fun for those girls to play those parts.
SM: I can’t let you go without asking one very critical question. Is there any universe in which we get a version of “Lunch Lady Land” in a Leo sequel?
AS: Well, that would make total sense. I feel we should build the next movie all around “Lunch Lady Land.” I’m with you … I had the Lunch Lady in Billy Madison, though — she was talking about Sloppy Joe’s a little bit. But you’re right, Leo 2, if that ever happened, we could definitely have the hair net in there.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.