We movie critics are supposed to begin our reviews of Adam Sandler films by reassuring the audience that we have no particular ill will toward Mr. Sandler, and that we take each of his films on a case-by-case basis. We liked “Wedding Singer” OK, but we hated “Little Nicky,” for example.
I hope I have convinced you of my unbiased nature so you will believe me when I tell you “Mr. Deeds” is an unfunny, careless piece of trash riddled with directorial, editing and acting mistakes. It was directed by Steven Brill, who has directed three Sandler films; and written by Tim Herlihy, who was written seven. I believe it is one of the lesser efforts from both of them. It is full of elements found in each of the others, with nothing new. It’s like watching another episode of a predictable TV show.
Loosely based on the Frank Capra film “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” this is one of the Sandler films where he doesn’t speak in a goofy voice, but where he does beat a lot of people up. He is Longfellow Deeds, an unassuming and charming man in Mandrake Falls, N.H., who discovers he is the sole heir to the $40 billion fortune of a recently deceased media magnate who happened to be his great-uncle.
Two representatives from the old man’s corporation — one good (Erick Avari) and one evil (Peter Gallagher) — bring Deeds to New York so he can sign over his shares and receive his $40 billion. In the meantime, everyone wants to get a look at the new richest man in America. This includes a tabloid TV show called Inside Access, which sends a producer named Babe (Winona Ryder) undercover to befriend Deeds, hoping to get the scoop on his life story and maybe even find some dirt. (If many elements of this plot line remind you of “The Hudsucker Proxy,” try not to think too much about that far superior film. It will only make you dislike this one more.)
Naturally, Babe — calling herself Pam — falls in love with Deeds, who is too naive to realize he’s being duped. I’m not sure how he manages not to realize it, considering all the surveillance footage Inside Access shows is from incidents Pam was witness to. Maybe he wonders, as I did, how events captured by her one hidden camera could have shot the scenes from three different angles.
The lone funny performance is by John Turturro as Deeds’ devoted Spanish butler, Emilio. He delivers his so-so lines in a way that gives them humor. Sandler, at the other end of the spectrum, delivers every line like he’s too cool to be bothered with acting or nuance. He reminds me of what happens when a high school football player gets forced into a drama production: It would be too queer to, you know, emote, so he just goes through the motions and tries not to do anything that his friends could razz him for.
There is a scene where Deeds throws cats out of a window. It made me laugh.
It all leads to a finale that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, where Deeds’ innocence proves to be the right way of thinking, and all the greedy corporate fatcats are shamed into agreeing with him. Frankly, I refuse to accept Adam Sandler as the profound moron who shows me the error of my ways. Nothing could ever make me humble enough to accept counsel from him.
Within the Sandler canon, “Mr. Deeds” most closely resembles “Big Daddy.” I suspect if you liked that film, you will like this one. I didn’t, and I don’t.
D (; )