John Turturro and Adam Sandler in Mr. Deeds.
I never saw the original Frank Capra movie, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, that this movie was based upon, so I can't really compare the two. All I can say is that if I were choosing an actor to reprise a Gary Cooper role, Adam Sandler would probably be near the bottom of my list. Somewhere, somehow, someone thought otherwise and we ended up with this movie.
I've only ever seen one Adam Sandler movie that I ever liked, and that was his romantic comedy tribute to the 1980s, The Wedding Singer. Normally his movies are just too juvenile and childish for me, which is fitting I suppose since his target audience seems to be teenage boys. But it was a hot day this past Saturday and escaping into the air-conditioned darkness of a movie theater seemed like a good idea at the time.
Surprisingly, this movie didn't seem to be aimed at the teenage crowd. Instead it was aimed even lower, with jokes only a pre-teen audience could find funny.
The movie tells the story of Longfellow Deeds (Sandler), a pizzeria owner from a small town, who discovers that an uncle he never knew he had, has died and left him $40 Billion. Deeds is so nice and sweetly stupid (his dream is to write greeting cards for Hallmark), that the news barely registers on him, and instead of shock, or joy, merely leaves him indifferent.
He then travels to New York with the manager (Peter Gallagher) of his late-uncle's corporation where he is to sign off on the paperwork which will allow Gallagher's character to buy out Deeds's shares for the aforementioned $40 billion. Gallagher is supposed to be a sleazy character, but the only way we really know this is because, unlike everyone else in this movie, he doesn't fall for Deeds's idiot like charm, something most of the audience seemed to have in common with him. You assume that since he is supposed to be sleazy that he will somehow cheat Deeds out of the money, but no, he actually wants to buy the company and then send Deeds on his way.
Winona Ryder plays a reporter who pretends to be another small town yokel. She pretends to be mugged so that Deeds can rescue her and she can get the story on this new billionaire. Together they go on a date, which she is secretly videotaping.
The jokes, in case you were wondering, mainly involve Deeds punching people, or throwing burning cats out of windows. Although one rather bizarre sequence involves Deeds and John McEnroe throwing eggs at cars and ends with McEnroe doing a Matrix like leap.
In the end, Deeds finds out that his girlfriend is a reporter, they fight, they make-up. Peter Gallagher's character, after buying Deeds's shares, reveals that he is going to break up the corporation, and Deeds, who has given all his money away to the United Negro College Fund, must make a painfully stupid and insipid little speech that somehow convinces all the stockholders not to sell their shares. The rest of the movie just gets stupider.
Adam Sandler fans, no doubt, will line up to see this movie. Anyone with an IQ over 85, should stay away.
Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder in Mr. Deeds.
On his CD's Adam Sandler has a sick imagination and sense of humor. "Play with yer cock and balls fer mommy." However, his film persona is strikingly the opposite. Often playing lovable lugs with romantic tendencies. Mr. Deeds is one of the best examples of this and also one of Sandler's best films.
Scott went on and on about how juvenile and anti intellectual this movie is. This movie is about the heart and not the brain. Sandler's innocent pizza deliverer inherits billions and goes to the big city. The set up is obvious but charming. His character is simple minded but he touches almost everyone's life he comes in contact with. The character of Mr. Deeds is a satire. From helping an old man across the street by carrying him on his back to being completely unfazed by the news of inheriting 40 billion dollars. Mr. Deeds (hello, the name speaks for itself) is a truly unselfish, morally and ethically stand up guy. The point is so over the top that it is not to be taken seriously Scott.
One of my favorite scenes is when the professional football player storms into Mr. Deeds office demanding millions in a pay raise. Mr. Deeds turns him down and the player lets loose a string of profanity. Being that a lady is present Mr. Deeds slugs the spoiled jock as to stop the cursing and the offending of the lady.
Man, I would love to see that happen in real life. One of these pampered athletes striking for more millions getting popped in the kisser. Of course I will never see that happen and thus this is the charm of this movie.
Mr. Deeds reacts to things in ways that in real life would never happen. It is the movie's strength but also it is the movies weakness. Remember the hypocrite liberal Hollywood motto. If a character in a movie is rich then they are bad, evil, selfish etc...... If a character is poor then they have an innate goodness about them no matter what their plight. So all of the folks from Mr. Deeds home town are hardworking good hearted folk and everyone from the big city is a self centered greedy snob. The only exception in the big city is of course the good hearted, hard working servant.
It is this Hollywood stereotyping that contradicts the entire theme of this movie. It doesn't matter how much money you have but what you do with your life that matters.
J.B. Smoove and Adam Sandler in Mr. Deeds.
Adam Sandler movies are in the same critic proof category as the Twilight, Mall Cop and Fast & Furious movies. Despite all the horrible reviews they receive, audiences flock to see them. Mr. Deeds was panned by (most) critics and garnered 3 Razzie nominations. It got one for Sandler, one for Ryder, and one for Worst Remake, yet it was an enormous hit at the box office. As Scott wrote, Adam Sandler is no Gary Cooper and I will add that Winona Ryder is no Jean Arthur either. But most obviously, Steven Brill is no Frank Capra.
The plot of the small town yokel who inherits a fortune, moves to the big city and experiences a clash of cultures, worked much better in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town than it does here. But then the Depression era suits the story better than the early days of the 21st Century, when this movie was made. What does it say about the ultimately unsustainable nature of unchecked capitalism that in 1936, 20 million dollars was considered an unimaginably huge amount of money yet thanks to inflation, just 66 years later, that number - in order to seem equally impressive - was changed to 40 billion dollars?
I didn't find the humor in this movie to be funny. Like Scott I have no idea why John McEnroe and Adam Sandler throw eggs at cars in one scene. I guess it seemed like a funny idea at the time. It is a WTF moment that comes out of nowhere. And the scene with the cat lady is equally insipid and unfunny. Here's this movies idea of a witty exchange (see photo). Longfellow Deeds to elevator operator, “So how is the elevator business treating you, Reuben?” Reuben, “Oh, it has its ups and downs.” That joke was old when the first Mr. Deeds came out.
And although Eric is correct that Adam Sandler often attempts to inject romance and pathos into his films he does it in such an obvious, clumsy way. He's a bit like a child with his first coloring book who finds it a challenge just to stay within the lines. As a romance Mr. Deeds flops. There is no chemistry between Sandler and Ryder. I never before noticed her limitations as an actress but her performance here seems phoned in. Eric this is not one of Adam Sandler's best films. I do agree that he's made worse movies but I'll take Punch Drunk Love, 50 First Dates, or Anger Management over Mr. Deeds any day of the week.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2002)