Mr. Deeds
***.4 BM
Starring: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Jared Harris, John Turturro, Peter Gallagher, Erick Avari


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So Adam Sandler is now considered to be 'losing his touch.' "Billy Madison" was insanely nuts, and "Happy Gilmore" was a laff riot. However, his first attempt at growing up a bit, "Big Daddy," underwhelmed some people since it wasn't the freaking insane comedy he was known for, and when he tried to get back to that, he made the unfortunate decision to play "Little Nicky" with a very annoying, unlikable vocal styling that I believe played a major role in turning people off of what could have been a gloriously stupid and consistently hilarious parody of all religion (I mean, Rodney Dangerfield as Harvey "Satan" Keitel's dad, for pete's sake!), and thus nobody liked it but me, apparently. So it seems that some people are considering this one to be either a return to good fun or a sign of decline.

Having not seen the original film, this remake seems to be pleasant enough. Sandler's a small-town nice guy named Longfellow Deeds who suddenly inherits a multi-billion dollar media empire, and Ryder plays the tabloid reporter who goes undercover as an innocent damsel to get 'the scoop' on this guy, and of course, she falls in love with him as he freely gives cash away and hasn't the least bit of interest in being a self-serving zillionaire like Gallagher, who schemes to take the company for himself.

It's pretty much a by-the-numbers dopey comedy, with the Sandler twists generally subdued as he makes his way toward the grown-up world. It's an admirable move for him, since there's only so long the juvenile insanity will remain funny and not pathetic, and trying to develop a bit of a range only helps the longevity of a career (and his dramatic turn in the upcoming "Punch Drunk Love" seems to be garnering some acclaim), but it makes for an awkwardly restrained comic story. There is some seriously funny stuff in this film, though, and most of it is the result of Turturro's superhumanly sneaky servant antics.

What I found the most interesting about this film is that it's the first "dopey comedy" like this that I can remember that actually gave the female love interest an active role, rather than relegating them to decorative eye candy for the lead doofus to fall for. Ryder's character actually has a character arc - she's a snotty conniver that pulls some really dirty shit and then has to figure out how to atone for it all - and she's a good enough actress that she manages to give the role an illusion of greater depth than it actually has. I don't know what it is, but it took me until this film to truly and completely fall for Winona Ryder. She's done all sorts of interesting, goofball roles before that by all rights should have made me the same sort of obsessed with her that a lot of quirk-lovers are. I've always found her cute, but it wasn't until THIS film that I started getting all fluttery and crushy on her, and that shouldn't be happening, because it's a dopey Sandler comedy. Or maybe that's WHY - she's known for artsy, generally intellectual fare, and doing a Sandler film shows she can clown around just fine and, thusly is more attractive.

It is also highly possible that I'm just really weird.

So, anyway, the film has some funny, some good Turturro, and Sandler and Ryder are engaging enough to make the movie feel like it's more fun than it actually is. It's all right. See it on cable.

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