Movie Review: Enjoying ‘Mr. Deeds’ is a guilty pleasure

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Adam Sandler, America’s favorite man-child du jour, returns to theaters with &uot;Mr. Deeds.&uot; He plays a happy-go-lucky New Hampshire resident (and aspiring greeting card mogul) who discovers that he’s just inherited $40 billion from his rich, long-lost uncle, who froze to death in an avalanche. He accompanies two shareholders in his uncle’s company (Peter Gallagher and the surprisingly hysterical Erick Avari) back to Manhattan to sign the required paperwork to receive his gift. Once in the Biggest of Apples, he’s propelled to the top of the societal columns and communities, and hilarity ensues en route to the &uot;yeah, we got you, you greedy scumbag!&uot; ending.

First off, as with all Sandler flicks, the requisite bombshell is needed to win his heart. This time, the object of his affection is played by Winona Ryder (who’s NEVER looked hotter) as Babe Bennett, a budding tabloid reporter whose search for her way to the level of Barbara Walters brings her face-to-headline with the dirty truth of network journalism. Armed with a breast-padded camera and a fake life story (which comes into play in a hilarious trip to her &uot;hometown&uot;), she’s determined to get the inside scoop on the guy who just got his hands on the world’s greatest fortune. But, as such in a Sandler movie, she discovers that the guy inherited her heart as well.

Ryder puts more into this performance than Sandler does, and that might be why their chemistry never comes close to the level of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (or even Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo). But think about it: Sandler has never really had believable chemistry with any of his love interests. Except maybe &uot;The Wedding Singer,&uot; which had enough backbone to make us believe that Sandler’s relationship with Drew Barrymore’s character was more than just &uot;meet-and-fall-madly-in-love.&uot; Thus, it’s a given that the two will end up together, whether the audience wants them to or not (don’t worry – you will).

Email newsletter signup

&uot;Mr. Deeds&uot; is the definition of a guilty pleasure caught inside a film. After seeing Sandler’s previous films, we go into the theater almost determined NOT to laugh. We think we’ve seen the same song and dance so many times that it’s going to be impossible to tickle the funny bone THIS time. We’re better than that. We’re better than laughing at guys with misshapen eyes and people getting hit in the throat with tennis balls.

But, not surprisingly, we find that we’re just not that tough, and maybe we shouldn’t be. We realize that Sandler’s work has drawn us in again, and made us laugh like the children we once were and would like to be again.

From smiling to chuckling, from giggling to laughing out loud to falling to the floor and praying &uot;Please, lord, please let me stop before I burst a blood vessel,&uot; we can’t stop. It’s childish and gross and oftentimes tasteless but we can’t stop laughing.

We see John Turturro’s butler with the sneakiness of a stealth and a disgusting foot fetish but we can’t stop. We see a strangely effeminate John McEnroe cameo but we can’t stop. We see airline pilots team with Sandler for a rendition of David Bowie’s &uot;Spaceman,&uot; but we can’t stop. We see Ryder get bodyslammed

through a table by Sandler’s &uot;female but more of a man than 90 percent of guys&uot; co-worker, but we can’t stop.

And that is why &uot;Mr. Deeds&uot; works, perhaps better than Sandler’s other films. It takes us as unwilling passengers on a trip back to the times where long division and history were two of the biggest worries we would ever face, when kissing a member of the opposite sex was unthinkably disgusting, and when Saturday mornings were good for getting up early and playing soccer and baseball with our friends. We see Sandler’s nine-year-old-trapped-in-an-adult-body and realize that that same child lives within us all. And it sometimes isn’t very far inside.

Grade: B