I like Adam Sandler. I think he’s funny. I can recite bits of Happy Gilmore at you until you want to garotte me. (‘You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut the hell up! Now, you will go to sleep or I will put you to sleep. you’re in my world now, grandma.’ See?) I think The Wedding Singer contains moments of comic genius. Hell, I even laughed in Little Nicky, which I think displays a certain commitment to lavatorial humour.
But even I didn’t like this film.How can I make this crystal clear? If Mr Deeds was a puppy, I would drown it. If Mr Deeds was a small blond haired child with big blue eyes begging for more gruel, I would dash the bowl from his hands and send him to live on the streets. If Mr Deeds was a beautiful woman wearing naught but a thong and a dirty expression, I would tell her to cover herself up and go and sleep on the sofa. Then, while she slept, I would fetch my shotgun and -
Sorry. I’m getting carried away. Perhaps I should tell you a little about the film.
Actually, you probably already know it. Here’s roughly what happens. It’s not what I’d call strikingly original. Longfellow Deeds is just a small-time Joe in Hicksville, New England, who’s very happy quietly running his pizza place and being loved by all who know him. Then, his long-lost great uncle dies, and - guess what? - leaves our boy a huge fortune! Cue Deedsy going to the Big Apple, fish out of water shenanigans, valuable moral lessons, pretty girl, etc. John McEnroe and Al Sharpton turn up. Hilarity ensues.
Except, of course, that it doesn’t. Mr Deeds isn’t a funny film. On any level. It might be funny if you were Adam Sandler’s agent, I suppose, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s not so bad it’s good; it’s just - so bad. The comic setpieces one expects from Sandler are all there, but they’re written and performed at a level far below some of his previous work. The one-liners are technically present too, but, though they are one line long, this is really all they have in common with some of the classics from earlier in his career. (Like, ‘I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!’ ‘You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?’ Ok, two lines, but they make me laugh. Still. Which is a little embarrassing.)
The trouble with the film not being funny is that it brings all its other inadequacies into glaring relief. Sandler does not play a character; he bounces from ‘comic’ moment to moment, being pretty much the same non-entity he has been since The Waterboy and passing it off as ‘everyman’. Winona Ryder, who is usually a reasonably competent actress, is given so little to play with you wish she was doing time for that shoplifting thing. The ‘plot’ is perhaps the most risible yet from the Sandler stable, and fuller of holes than my string vest. The attempt at light romance is so formulaic it actually has a scene where the leads buy bikes off cute children and ride them through Central Park after dark. (Film world: romantic. Cute. Real world: great way to get mugged or raped.) Only John Turturro, who entirely steals the show as creepy foot-fetishist manservant Emilio, would deserve to be exempted from the slaughter of the cast and crew which would follow the release of a travesty like this in any truly civilised society.
If you like your comedies to be funny, don’t see Mr Deeds. If you like them to moralise at you, let me save you the ticket price and pass on the message: if you inherit a forty billion dollar stake in a multinational conglomerate, don’t sell out so that the bad guys can chop it up and lose 50 000 people their jobs. Instead, use your homespun wisdom (‘Ah don’t know much, but ah know theeyus: bein’ mean’s wicked wrong’ kinda thing) to convince all the shareholders that they shouldn’t be evil corporate bastards after all. Then, even though you’re still fucked, don’t worry: a dumbass deus ex machina so risible Neighbours would scorn it will save you. And although said deus ex machina means you haven’t inherited any money after all, don’t worry: you’ll get a billion dollars (and the girl of your dreams) just for being such a nice guy. Then you can go home and run your pizza place again. Hallmark might even buy one of your appalling greeting cards.
Some people would call this a spoiler, but that would require there to be something to spoil - and it’s not as if you wouldn’t see it all coming in the first three minutes anyway. Mr Deeds is a blight on humanity. Do not see this film.