J.D. Lafrance
The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection DVD Review

The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection

June 11, 2005

Director: Tamra Davis, Dennis Dugan,
Starring: Adam Sandler, Bradley Whitford, Josh Mostel, Bridgette Wilson, Norm MacDonald, Darren McGavin, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Carl Weathers, Frances Bay, Robert Smigel, Bob Barker, Richard Kiel, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

In some respects, Adam Sandler has come a long way since Billy Madison (1995), his first starring role after four years on Saturday Night Live. Recently, he has starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Technicolor romantic comedy, Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and James L. Brook’s comic drama, Spanglish (2004). Happy Gilmore (1996) helped establish a strong fan base and demonstrated his bankability. He has never looked back since, cranking out one box office hit after another. Universal has gone back to the well and re-packaged his first two solo efforts in one set with re-mastered transfers and bonus material that fans will enjoy.

Being that it was his first solo effort, Billy Madison comes off as quite unrefined in its style and approach. Now, you may ask yourself, well, isn’t that the point? Sandler was still trying to find the right template for his brand of potty humour and it shows with this film. His movies often feature Sandler as an idiotic man-child who has to redeem his childish ways by the film’s end and become a semi-respectable member of society. Along the way there are plenty of crude jokes and the requisite love interest (usually an up-and-coming starlet with blond hair) that he must win over.

Billy (Sandler) is a snotty, spoiled rich kid who is content to goof off with his friends (MacDonald, Mark Beltzman) and live off his wealthy father (McGavin). His dad wants to retire and leave his company to Billy but his son clearly lacks the competence to even run an ice cream truck let alone a Fortune 500 company. Eric (Whitford), his father’s weasely right-hand man is poised to take over instead and this terrifies Billy. So, he proposes to his father that he redo school at an accelerated rate—grades 1-12 with a grade every two weeks. The plan is to get his diploma and prove to his old man that he’s got what it takes.

As mentioned earlier, this is a Sandler film in its infancy. Infantile humour, like leaving a flaming bag of dog poop on someone’s doorstep epitomizes the level of wit in this movie. Much of the comedy in Billy Madison comes from the fish-out-of-water scenario as the grown-up Billy is forced to mix it up with little kids at school. He plays dodgeball with them (with a slightly unfair advantage!) and spends arts and crafts time eating glue – in other words, he fits right in (mentally, at least).

While Billy is a self-absorbed boob intent on only maintaining his rich, carefree lifestyle, his next character, Happy Gilmore (1996), is a more altruistic sort of protagonist. He plays a lousy hockey player who dreams of one day playing in the NHL. Unfortunately, he can’t skate or handle the puck very well but he does have one helluva a wicked slap shot. After being cut from try-outs and losing his girlfriend, Happy finds out that his grandmother (Bay) has lost her home for failing to pay back taxes. By accident, he finds out that he can drive a golf ball tremendous distances with his slap shot.

So, he makes his way onto the pro golf tour with the help of washed legend, Chubbs Peterson (Weathers) and earns enough money to buy his grandmother’s home back. However, his unorthodox style of play (including punching out rival opponents who piss him off and swearing a blue streak when he can’t successfully putt) doesn’t sit well with the league’s reigning champ, Shooter McGavin (played with wonderful arrogance by Christopher McDonald), who does everything in his power to make sure Happy fails.

The majority of the film’s humour comes from the clash of Happy’s violent hockey attitude with the conservative nature of golf. Happy Gilmore is the first Sandler film to have truly quotable dialogue (“You’re gonna die clown!”) and memorable scenes (like when Happy golfs with The Price is Right’s Bob Barker). There is also a hilarious uncredited cameo by Ben Stiller as a sleazy resting home nurse with ‘70s porno star moustache. Christopher McDonald also plays his conceited villain to the hilt, making him someone you love to hate. The weakest link in the film is Sandler’s love interest, Virginia Venit (Bowen), who comes off as rather bland. Also, the blatant product placement for Subway comes off as pretty obvious. Until Big Daddy (1999), this was Sandler’s best and funniest solo effort.

Special Features:

On the Billy Madison DVD there are six deleted scenes totaling 33 minutes. They include Billy, delirious from too much sun, chasing around a large penguin and a “horny” Billy chasing his buddy Frank (MacDonald) around the estate. There are lots of small bits and pieces that were rightfully trimmed (including one where Billy does nothing but scratch his ass).

There are three minutes of outtakes. Nothing terribly exciting or all that funny.

Also included are production notes.

Finally, there is an audio commentary by the film’s director, Tamra Davis. She constantly mentions how certain shots or moments are “crazy” or “insane.” She wasn’t the original choice to direct, Sandler had picked someone else but when that fell through she got the gig. She only had a few days to prepare before she was on the set of the movie. This is a pretty boring, uninvolving track as Davis points out a scene that she didn’t direct and she knows this because she would never have picked the sweater that Sandler wears in the scene. Yawn.

Sadly, the stronger of the two movies, Happy Gilmore, doesn’t have as many extras. There are six deleted scenes that run 20 minutes, including the introduction of Happy’s golf clubs and more footage of his golfing misadventures. There is also an interesting scene where he tries to fire his homeless caddy (Allen Covert) who, in a rare moment, actually speaks!

There is also a five minute reel of outtakes which is a pretty funny collection of blown lines and goofs.

Finally, there are production notes.

The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection shows the beginnings of Adam Sandler’s evolution as a box office heavyweight with his own particular brand of comedy. It is nice to finally have these films in their original aspect ratio and with a smattering of extras. Fans of both films will no doubt enjoy everything they have to offer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 70%



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