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Mr. Deeds

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2002, Sony/New Line
Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher
Steven Brill
MPAA Rating:
[PG-13] language, sexual references
96 minutes

When Longfellow Deeds (Sandler) inherits control of a $40 billion corporation, he brings his smalltown values to the big city.

What's Good
funny characters from John Turturro and Erick Avari
some amusing fights and moments of off-beat humor

What's Bad
clean cut and utterly predictable
too many sappy moments and hollow lessons of morality
Sandler's movie formula is still typical and tiresome

Reviewer: Andrew Manning (July 2002)

In the movies, Adam Sandler generally plays the same character: the nice, well-meaning fellow who has to overcome adversity and score one for the underdogs. About the only thing that changes from film to film is his level of mental peculiarity, which ranges from the "wicked retarded" goofball of The Waterboy to the all out rage-aholic (fully addicted to rage-ahol) of Happy Gilmore. This time around, he falls somewhere in the middle: naive, but not clinically stupid; violent, yet only in the name of chivalry.

In Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler is the oddly named Longfellow Deeds, a smalltown boy who is the apparent heir to a $40 billion media empire. After learning of this huge windfall, he goes to the big city, only to inject his hometown values into the giant corporate machine. With kindhearted innocence that borders on extreme foolishness, he doles out stacks of money like Halloween candy to any lucky schmuck in the vicinity. His own indulgence in his newfound wealth stays simple yet quirky: a pit stop at Wendy's on his private jet; a personal drinking fountain that dispenses Hawaiian punch.

But all is not frosty shakes and fruity red drinks: there are Bad People out to get Our Hero. Winona Ryder is an ambitious journalist of sorts who goes undercover as a damsel in distress to try to dig up dirt on Deeds, and Peter Gallagher (He of the Troubling Eyebrows) is a sleazy corporate tycoon out to seize control of Deeds' fortune.

Like most other Adam Sandler films, Mr. Deeds follows a basic and utterly predictable formula. Many of the comedian's reliable standards are in effect: abuse of old folks, crude humor, a Rob Schneider appearance, and mentally deficient sidekicks. Some of the stuff works, but there's not much room for originality. Don't expect much in the way of new material. This movie even perpetuates Sandler's trend of playing guys who are unexpectedly good at dishing out beatings. Deeds gets into more fights than Russell Crowe at an awards ceremony.

There are really only two character highlights: Erick Avari is amusing as one of the film's token old dudes, and John Turturro is very funny as a sneaky Spaniard prone to mysteriously appearing and disappearing. Unfortunately, both of them have relatively little onscreen time.

The overabundance of smalltown propaganda gets tiresome, as does the fairy tale message of "money does not equal true happiness." The comedy is too clean and whitewashed, giving audiences the polite, unoffensive version of Sandler seen in The Wedding Singer--it's like watching Chris Rock in Bad Company.

The corny betrayal, breakup, and eventual makeup between Sandler and Ryder is as generic and predictable as the ones in such timeless cinematic classics as She's All That and Never Been Kissed. A silly speech Deeds spews during the movie's sluggish finale is full of cheap grandstanding that would have a snowball's chance in hell of working in the real world. And Deeds' ambition of writing sentimental Hallmark greeting cards is a shameless gimmick that tries to mechanically elicit emotion.

For the most part, Mr. Deeds is bland and uneventful. It's harmless, innocuous entertainment that offers light diversion...and all the creative void that comes with it.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)

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