Normally I wouldn’t be packing two films together into one review, but in the case of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, I’m making an exception because they are being released together in a special “collection” DVD set.
Now, let me say off the bat that I’m not a Adam Sandler fan. I have friends who are, but I just don’t think most of his movies are all that funny. And in this collection, I half liked it and half disliked it. That means I enjoyed Happy Gilmore, but found Billy Madison to pretty much represent everything I didn’t like about Sandler’s movies as well as some of his Saturday Night Live skits.
First, lets start off with Happy Gilmore, since I found that movie to be a pleasant surprise. I had actually not seen this film before watching the DVD. I was familiar with some of it, such as the Bob Barker fight scene, but that was about it. But this film actually had some heart and was pretty funny.
Perhaps the main reason I enjoyed this movie is because I can’t stand golf, and this comedy effectively poked fun at the sport. From the stuffy fan-base to the way the players all seem to take themselves waaaay too seriously.
I also liked how Sandler’s Happy Gilmore wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as his other film characters. In this case, he was a guy who loved hockey but couldn’t play. But when his grandmother’s house is repossessed by the government, he must raise more than $200,000 to save it. When he discovers he has a natural talent for golf, he quickly wins his way into a pro tour in order to raise the money.
For the most part, Adam Sandler plays the same person in most of his movies: an obnoxious smart-ass who makes good. But the obnoxiousness that generally makes me ill in his other films is dramatically toned down here, as is his usual penchant for ham and ridiculous voice changes. Sure, he’s a short-tempered smart ass, but at least he’s a likable short-tempered smart ass.
The only misstep in the film for me was the death of his golf instructor, played well by Carl Weathers. Sure, the death of the teacher is generally a staple in these kinds of “Rocky”-like stories, but it seemed a little unnecessary here. Plus, I liked Weathers in the film, and thought the death wasn’t terribly funny. It felt thrown in and wasn’t integral to the film’s conclusion.
Otherwise, this was a generally funny and well-performed comedy. While not as good as The Wedding Singer, it’s definitely among his best.
As for Billy Madison, that’s another story all together. The first vehicle for Sandler, it basically takes his antics from Saturday Night Live and puts them on the big screen. As a result, this film perfectly represents everything that isn’t funny about Adam Sandler.
Billy Madison is the story of a goof-off rich kid who must win a bet to gain control of his father’s millions. The bet? Go from 1st to 12th grade in six months. And since Madison managed to fail each of those grades the first time around, he’s going to have a lot of difficulty when he tries them again.
There is very little to like about Billy Madison. He’s obnoxious, annoying, stupid and a jerk. You can’t exactly hate him, but what is there to like?
Yeah, okay, so you laugh once or twice. I’d be lying otherwise if I tried to claim that I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I liked it. Sandler’s antics grow old pretty quick, and the laughs don’t move much further than one-time laughers that simply get used over and over again. Norm MacDonald is hilarious, however, and his stone-cold delivery works far better than Sandler’s goofiness.
Mind you, I think Sandler did manage to get better after this film. At least for a while. And his recent “dramatic” work has proven interesting. Billy Madison was his first major onscreen role. It’s largely a feature film-version of virtually all of Sandler’s characters on SNL. But at the same time, that’s largely why I dislike the movie. I was never a fan of Sandler on Saturday Night Live. He always seemed to find himself more funny than the skit actually was, and regularly cracked up. In fact, he seemed to do it so often, that it became what he was famous for. Suddenly, it was okay for the performers to just start laughing during a skit. The show declined as a result, and I think that’s when I officially lost interest in the show.
Now, how about those features! Well, there aren’t all that many on either of these discs, but the ones that are there are often the ones most people want: deleted scenes and outtakes. And while some of the deleted scenes on both discs are just stuff that isn’t terribly funny anyway, the outtakes are great. Plus, Billy Madison features an audio commentary which is actually pretty interesting to listen to. Although it doesn’t feature Sandler, it does give the film’s director, Tamra Davis, a chance to discuss her experience making it.
I actually would have preferred that they had a commentary on Happy Gilmore, since that was the film I enjoyed, but oh well.
If you’re an Adam Sandler fan, then this collection will undoubtedly make you very happy. If you’re not, than let me recommend at least giving Happy Gilmore a chance, it’s definitely worth the time.