What can I say about the latest comedic offering by Adam Sandler... start with things about the film that were positive, that's easy. Hmm... oh yeah... seeing Rob Schneider reprise his role as the illiterate delivery guy from Big Daddy was cool, I love those types of continuity cameos. What else... well, New York still looks pretty at night... anything else? Nope.
Now let's talk about the negative things. The film runs 96 minutes long. The good stuff takes up about 3 minutes tops, and that's being generous. That means, taking out the credits and the travel sequences, you have a total of about 80 minutes of pure unadulterated crap to sit through in this movie. Toilet humor, lame jokes not even worthy of a rim shot, more toilet humor, bad pratfalls and physical comedy, more lame joke that make the first set seem funny, a very lonely and occasional chuckle, stereotypes, and overall, an incredibly bad message running through the subtext of the film that makes me wonder just who is making these movies, and what alien stole their conscience.
From the top. Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler ), the great-grandnephew of the head of a multi-national media conglomerate, who dies with no obvious heirs. Thus, the corporate toadies fly out in their whale-sized helicopter to scoop up Mr. Small-Town Deeds and whisk him off to New York, where he charms everyone into good manners while all the while having none himself. He gets shafted by evil Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher), befriended by his manservant Emilio (John Turturro) and emotionally seduced by 'Pam Dawson', aka Babe (Winona Ryder) as she scams him for a tabloid news story. Dull. Formulaic. Predictable. NOT FUNNY. That about sums up the movie.
Sandler has long traded on his common-man image, and his rather special brand of humor. I did not like Adam Sandler when I was first explosed to him, I had to be drug, kicking and screaming, by my brother to one of his films, but the first one I saw was Waterboy and I was surprised at how much fun I had. Then I went back and saw the others. My favorite is Wedding Singer, proof positive that Sandler can create an engaging character, act, be funny, and send a decent message. The others, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, were alright but nothing special. I didn't even bother seeing Little Nicky and I shouldn't have bothered seeing this.
For those of you who have seen the wonderful film Groundhog's Day with Bill Murray, I think that film shows the route Sandler's taking. He starts out being kinda jerky, then seems to get nice, the devolves back down into being a schmuck. By the end of the film, he's learned his lesson and become a fully realized, nice human being. Sandler is stuck in his schmuck phase. His characters are becoming tired re-runs of former successes, and his brand of humor is showing the wear and tear of being driven on too hard and too much. From here, he can either continue on in this vein and become just another E! True Hollywood Story, of he can mature, let his humor mature, and try to do something with a smidgeon of quality to it. Based on the trailer that ran before the film, however, maturity isn't in his future yet.
If there was a single thing not cliché and stereotypical about this film, I didn't see it. The 'bad guys' are cartoons, the butler is a caricature, the 'love interest' was completely flat (and I'm talking about her acting here) and there was exactly 0 chemistry between Sandler and Ryder. Then let's talk about how this film falls into bad 70's stereotypes about Blacks, Hispanics, women, people with handicaps... for shame, Steve Buscemi, for shame. This film is all about bad things that go worse together. Sandler's now-formula brand of comedy, mixed in with lackluster writing, completely uninspired direction, lame dialogue and filmic roles that went out with bellbottoms (the first time).
This is a remake of another film, a film that I can say with no hesitation, was much better than this. I haven't seen it, but just knowing that it was a Frank Capra film, and starred Gary Cooper (if you don't know who these people are, ask your grandparents. They were their generation's Steven Soderbergh and Hugh Grant) and was mushy, overly sentimental, but it was honest and earnest and didn't pander to the lowest common denominator. The original was touted as being too cheesy in its time, but at least it wasn't mean or stupid or disrespectful, which is what we got from this generation's version. And to compare Steven Brill to Frank Capra, or Adam Sandler to Gary Cooper, is like comparing George Bush to Stephen Hawkins: So absurde that it's laughable, or would be if it wasn't so sad.
But at the bottom of all this, deep down in the muck that supports this film, is a horrible message. Deeds is supposed to be the soft-spoken, warm-hearted small-town guy, who comes to New York to teach the heartless pre-9/11 city-dwellers how to love again... by punching them in the face? So what does that tell us? It's ok to be violent and beat the crap out of people if they say rude things to us? And let's look at the interactions between Ryder and Sandler. The message there is that you can lie, cheat, betray people, and it'll all work out in the end if you're really sorry and say so over and over and over. What the hell kind of message is this to get out of a film being marketed to kids, who are (quite understandably) Sandler's main market?
There were exactly seven people in the audience when I saw the film: four adults, three kids. The adults were all in their 30's and 40's, and the kids were from around 4 to around 12. The kids didn't laugh at the stupid humor, but the mother of the two younger kids did, for a long time, making me wonder just what made this bad movie so funny to her, and then it hit me. She was looking for something to relieve the stress of having spend $20 on tickets, another $20 on snacks, and bringing her kids to a movie that makes Dude, Where's My Car look like Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. I don't blame her. I was laughing by the end credits... in amazement that anyone paid money to make this movie, and with pleasure that it was over and I could leave.
I give this film a firm D-, and the only reason I don't give it an F is that I hear that D- is passing, although barely, and I don't ever want to see this particular side of Adam Sandler or Steven Brill in my classroom ever again. Ever. This is a bad movie. It's probably the worst I've seen in the history of this site. Do yourself a favor. Go out, spend a quarter of the money you'd pay on this piece of tripe to rent the original, grab some sodas, pop your own popcorn, and have an enjoyable afternoon or evening, as opposed to the one I just spent. You can come back and thank me later.