Adam Sandler caught heat for casting his real-life daughters in his latest Netflix film, “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” and the film’s director has come to his defense amid the “nepo-babies” debate.

Sandler’s just doing what he’s always done: Making a movie with his friends, director Sammi Cohen told the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday. But this time around, those friends are his kids.

The comedian, 56, stars in the comedy as Danny Friedman alongside daughters Sunny, 14, and Sadie, 17, who happen to play his daughters Stacy and Ronnie in the movie, respectively. Sandler’s “Uncut Gems” co-star Idina Menzel plays his wife in the film, but his real wife, Jackie, also has a role: She plays Gabi, the mother of Stacy’s best friend, Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), whose falling out is the impetus behind the title.

“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” a progressive and modern adaptation of Fiona Rosenbloom’s 2005 novel about the Jewish coming-of-age ritual and its many social trappings, was released in theaters last week and is streaming on Netflix now. It was also produced by Sandler and has become the crowd-pleasing comic’s best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes yet.

Although the “Saturday Night Live” alum is on the sidelines for much of the action on-screen, which primarily revolves around the film’s younger stars, he’s been at the center of the Hollywood nepotism discourse that came to a fever pitch last winter.

“What I say is, he’s still making movies with his friends, but they’re his kids,” Cohen told THR. “He is the kind of dad who’s also your best friend. When it comes to the sort of chatter we’re hearing online, I don’t really think twice about it because I’m going like, ‘Yeah, he’s doing the same thing he’s always done.'”


Warner Bros. TV-owned Alloy Entertainment and Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions had the script before Cohen signed on to helm. And, at that point, Sandler’s girls were already attached to star in the movie. She said they collectively “built out the rest of the cast and the rest of the world around them – Adam and Jackie and everyone else.”

Sandler’s daughters have had small roles in his other films – “Pixels,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Grown Ups 2,” “Blended” and “Jack and Jill” among them – and were already comfortable being on set, Cohen said, adding that “they work harder than most adults” she knows.

“They love acting and filmmaking in general. They take such an interest in how the movie is made, and they’re both so talented,” the “Crush” and “CollegeHumor Originals” director said.

The filmmaker praised Sunny’s authenticity and relatability, citing her “incredible free-spirited nature” and “natural silliness that elicits moments of charming vulnerability.” All she had to do with Sadie was empower her to lean into what she does best – her “natural ability to be just effortlessly funny with that dry humor in her grounded delivery.”

Cohen noted that scenes Sandler shared with his kin in “Bat Mitzvah” felt especially poignant: “As much as that scene is Danny and Stacy, it’s also Adam and Sunny. It’s hard to put into words how special that feels, those moments where you see Danny with Ronnie or Stacy. It felt like we were making a movie and memorializing life in such this beautiful way. It’s just really special, and they’re all so goddamn talented.”

The girls’ skill sets were also showcased last fall when they appeared to write Sandler’s acceptance speech for the 2022 Gotham Awards – a performer tribute that went viral for its pointed barbs at the comedian and self-deprecating humor.

The Emmy- and Oscar-nominated comedian was on the “Bat Mitzvah” set most days, Cohen said, even when he wasn’t acting, and he made everything funnier. But he also gave the cast and crew space and provided support when needed.

“He’s wearing multiple hats – producing, acting, being an actual dad. It’s almost inhuman,” she said. “Nothing suffers – he does it all 110%. I would say he’s a good coach. He knows when to push; he knows when to take a step back. He just understands how to make a good movie, and he’s one of the funniest, kindest human beings.”

In the L.A. Times’ movie review, Gary Goldstein described Sunny as “winning and a natural” and noted that while the film has “a lot of Sandlers” in it, “they all fit nicely and amusingly into their roles.”

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