Are the sharks circling Sandler's career?

This past weekend, Adam Sandler jumped the shark.

His new film, "That's My Boy," made a meager $13 million at the box office, a disastrous opening for a comic whose films had opened in the $30 million to $40 million range.

To say that the top brass at Sony are in a funk over the dismal opening would be an understatement. After all, his "Jack and Jill" was considered a disappointment when it did only $25 million in its first weekend in 2011.

The fact that even Sandler's most loyal followers stayed home is an ominous sign that the 45-year-old comic is finally too old to pull off his trademark frat-house humor.

"That's My Boy" seemed like an attempt by an aging star to stay relevant. Of course, that is exactly what happens when you jump the shark.

The phrase originates with the 1977 "Happy Days" episode when Fonzie, seen water-skiing in swim trunks and his signature leather jacket, jumps over a shark that looks like a dime-store reject from "Jaws."

Although "Happy Days" had earned considerable TV viewer affection, the shark episode signaled that the sitcom had run out of ideas and had begun to resort to gimmickry.

Now shark-jumping is a broader way of assessing the decline of any prominent pop-culture figure or franchise. And that's where Adam Sandler comes in.

For years, Sandler has made a steady stream of knuckleheaded comedies that enjoyed a remarkable — some would say baffling — run of success at the box office. In the comedy business, the Sandler brand was a blue-chip stock, almost always bringing in $100 million in the U.S, and even more overseas.

But with "That's My Boy," an R-rated comedy in which Sandler plays a deadbeat dad who wreaks havoc at his strait-laced son's wedding, the spell has been broken.

For Sandler, the key element is the air of desperation in "That's My Boy." It feels like the cynical — not to mention doomed — bid by a comic hoping to connect with a generation of younger fans who never knew the baby-faced smart aleck who pushed the envelope in '90s comedies such as "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison."

Jumping the shark is a definite occupational hazard for comic talents, whether it's Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey or Will Ferrell.

For some, one unbelievably awful movie does the trick, as with 2008's "The Love Guru," which obliterated all the goodwill Myers had earned after his "Austin Powers" successes.

The good news for Sandler is that all sorts of luminaries have jumped the shark, yet somehow revived their careers.

When it looked as if Tom Cruise had jumped the shark after leaping off Oprah's couch, the actor took a wildly outrageous character role in Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder," which wiped the slate clean, reminding us of his acting chops and his ability to make fun of himself.

After the debacle of "That's My Boy," anything Sandler could do to make fun of himself would be a good start.

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