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Mr. Deeds (PG-13)
Official Site
Director: Steven Brill
Producers: Joseph M. Caracciolo, Adam Sandler
Written by: Tim Herlihy
Cast: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Peter Gallager

Rating: out of 5

It's not adults who are going to love Mr. Deeds but the younger, impossibly immature versions of ourselves we have hidden way below our ironic, postmodern surface. Yes, our hidden self — the one that secretly loves Billy Madison, turns to mush over The Wedding Singer and finds Little Nicky to be a devilishly good time (all while our visible persona rolls its eyes and denounces those films as immature drivel) — will have nothing but a good time at Adam Sandler's gagfest comedy Mr. Deeds. And why shouldn't we, really? In a summer that has delivered such comic bombs as Scooby Doo and Van Wilder, it's far from shameful to revel in the unapologetic, yet gut-bustingly skillful absurdity Sandler consistently brings to the silver screen.

The film — based on a short story by Clarence Budington Kelland and a variation on the 1936 Frank Capra classic Mr. Deeds Goes to Town — tells the story of Longfellow Deeds (Sandler), a small-town New Hampshire man who inherits $40 billion upon the death of his media mogul uncle. Informed of his inheritance by his uncle's super-shady right-hand man, Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher), Deeds makes his way to New York City and reluctantly basks in his late uncle's aristocratic lifestyle.

The media is in a frenzy to find out the identity of the mysterious heir, as well as dig up a little dirt on him. An especially sleazy TV tabloid called Inside Access zealously tries to get the scoop, and enlists its sexy producer Babe Bennet (Winona Ryder) to pose as a virginal school nurse in an attempt to get closer to Deeds. Adopting the name Pam Dawson, Bennet, along with her perm-donning co-worker Marty (Allen Covert), fakes her own mugging to meet the monetarily endowed scion. Hidden camera in tow, Bennet manages to catch Deeds at his worst, though mostly best — footage that Inside Access ultimately edits to make Deeds look like a violent, aggressive fool.

If you can't see where all of this is headed, than you're as blind as Crazy Eyes (a character played by Steve Buscemi, in his required Sandler-movie cameo). Deeds brings out Bennet's good side, and the poor girl can't help but fall for his goofy charm, a romance that inevitably hits the skids once her scheme is exposed. But don't count Deeds out for long; after all, I doubt we'll ever see the day when Adam Sandler doesn't get the girl.

The plot of Mr. Deeds is pretty standard, your average fish-out-of-water-meets-girl-of-his-dreams story, but in typical Sandler-style, eccentricities abounds. Deeds is an aspiring greeting card author whose poems generally range from rhythmically inept to downright offensive; his right foot was the victim of disgustingly awful frostbite; and his friends consist of an obese stoner, the aforementioned Crazy Eyes and a remarkably sneaky butler (John Turturro). Throw in some purposefully sappy, albeit comically tinged, speeches (much in the vein of Big Daddy's courtroom custody battle), and you've got Sandler at his goofball finest.

This isn't to say that some of the jokes aren't painfully bad — the first 20 minutes certainly shoulders its fair share — but most of them assault the funny bone with guffaw-inspiring accuracy (a scene involving Deeds' rescue of seven cats is an especially good example). The film also does a nice job of establishing a romantic vibe between Sandler and Ryder, although Ryder strays awfully close to superfluousness — not surprising considering most of the women in Sandler's movies exist solely to melt in the face of his slacker charisma. While not quite as heartfelt as The Wedding Singer, or as consistently hilarious as Happy Gilmore, Mr. Deeds does work as an example of what Sandler does best: allowing audiences to abandon their cynicism and gleefully absorb 90 minutes of pure silliness.

— Erin Steele


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