Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:36 - Released 6/28/02

Adam Sandler continues his astonishing downward spiral with Mr. Deeds, a comedy whose funniest scenes are shown in the TV trailer, which perpetuates his penchant for idiotic, schoolboy humor, misunderstood-nice-guy characters, and plots which insult the intelligence of anyone over 12. Okay, I know the screenplay is credited to Sandler's old pal and ex-roommate Tim Herlihy, and the directing to Steven Brill, but we all know Sandler is the main creative force behind his movies; besides, I would think those guys would be ashamed to have their names associated with this kind of dreck. As for the supporting cast, like Wynona Ryder, John Turturro, and Conchata Ferrell, all of whom are clearly above this project, I can only assume that they are all either desperate for cash or desperate to remain in the public eye, and feel that that appearing in a bad movie is better than appearing in no movie at all. I disagree.

The story of this film is in fact loosely based on the 1936 Gary Cooper film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, written by Robert Riskin, which was itself based on the short story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland. The fact that Cooper, Riskin, and Kelland were all dead before Sandler was born may be the only thing stopping them from filing suit, but I'm sure it doesn't prevent them from spinning in their respective graves. It centers around a supposedly charming small town guy named Longfellow Deeds, who, despite the fact that he's perfectly happy running a pizza shop and trying to break into the world of greeting card writing in Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire, discovers that he's the sole heir of recently deceased multi-billionaire Preston Blake, the C.E.O. of Blake Media, which seems to be something like Turner Broadcasting or Time/Warner. He is called away from his beloved home to New York City by the company's power-hungry interim manager (Peter Gallagher), who wants Deeds to sign away the company to him for $40 bil, and descended on by tabloid journalists like Babe Bennett (Ryder), who for some reason wants to run his name through the mud. But Deeds remains blissfully unaware of these peoples' evil designs, falling in love with Babe (who has adopted the persona of homespun school nurse "Pam Dawson" for the purpose of secretly videotaping him) and making friends with the servants in his uncle's palatial New York apartment, especially Emilio, the valet (Turturro), who prides himself on being "sneaky."

In the same way that Sandler's character in Big Daddy displayed good fathering techniques by teaching a young boy how to urinate on public buildings, his Deeds character shows the strong moral fiber of a small-town humanitarian by savagely beating up people who use profanity in the presence of women. His obvious affinity for New York drastically contradicts the countrified sensibilities of his character, especially when he shouts things from the rooftops like "I'm honored to be in the greatest city in the world!" Six months ago (about the time this movie was probably being filmed) it may have seemed poignant and sentimental, but at this point, for this premise, it's simply out of character. I'm not saying someone from rural America couldn't be excited about being in New York, but try as he may, Sandler will never be able to come off as a country bumpkin.

Despite the low calibre of its script, the poverty of actual humor, and the obvious sense of "slumming it" emanating from the performances of Ryder et al, I overheard a kid coming out of this film saying, "That was the best movie I've seen in a long time." There you have it, folks: Sandler's struck again.

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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