Mr. Deeds (2002) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual references, and brief nudity
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Jared Harris, Allen Covert, Peter Gallagher, John McEnroe, Rob Schneider (cameo)
Director: Steven Brill
Screenplay: Tim Herlihy
Review published June 30, 2002
I've endured some Adam Sandler stench-fests before to be sure -- Billy Madison, Big Daddy, Little Nicky -- hell, I didn't even care for the one most people seem to like: The Wedding Singer. I mentally braced myself going into each one of these films, as I knew deep down that I would be in for a painful experience; I wasn't let down. However, despite the lackluster track record thus far, I never thought I'd actually be slack-jawed for 90 minutes in utter astonishment at how truly bad an Adam Sandler vehicle could be until I saw Mr. Deeds. It's a film so unfunny that I almost felt compelled to throw in a laugh out of sheer pity.
In Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler plays Longfellow Deeds (but call him Deeds), a small-town guy with a love for writing bad poetry that he hopes of selling to Hallmark for a card. One day, some New York high rollers visit to tell Deeds he has inherited his uncle's fortune worth $40 billion. He is immediately whisked away to a life of fame and fortune. However, life isn't all rosy with his newfound wealth, as he is plagued with constant bad press, despite his best intentions. A sleazy TV show's producer (Ryder, Lost Souls) decides to get the scoop on Deeds more directly by pretending to be a nice school nurse from Iowa.
Mr. Deeds is another nail driven into the coffin of Adam Sandler's once promising, now pathetic career. After several such films, Sandler shows how pigeonholed he has become, never being able to deviate from the formula which got him where he is. However, where Sandler's world of small-time goofballs and eccentric big shots once seemed fresh and funny, now they are mere recycled caricatures, neither funny nor original. There is the obligatory scene of Sandler singing an old corny favorite, this time "Major Tom" into a banana. However, in Mr. Deeds this seems more like a desperate ad-lib in hopes for laughs than a genuine inspired skit. There are also the obligatory old folks who inspire laughs because -- well, because they are old and act goofy. Lastly there is the typical "guy who isn't funny but he has a funny accent, so now he is funny" character with John Turturro (Collateral Damage, 13 Conversations About One Thing) as the Spanish butler with a foot fetish.
We've seen it all before, and like all jokes good and bad, they get less funny with each repeated telling for the listener. All of the jokes in Mr. Deeds have been heard one too many times in Sandler's films alone. One example of an unfunny joke that gets repeated ad nauseam in the film actually sums up the movie experience perfectly. Sandler walks into his mansion for the first time, into a room so spacious he can hear an echo. Not very funny, and certainly even less so after the dozen times he repeats the joke afterward until we can only scream "enough already!" With Mr. Deeds, we are at that point in Adam Sandler's career where we are frustrated, because we want a new joke to laugh at, even a bad one, instead of suffering through the same jokes over and over and over again. However, this movie is so dull that perhaps the echoing in the large room is merely Sandler's way of telling all of us viewers how to make the film entertaining. I mean, with jokes fizzling this bad, the theater will be just silent enough for any bored moviegoer to fill the room with an echo of his own.
©2002 Vince Leo