Nature called. Look who answered.
Adam Sandler churns out another sentimental comedy. It’s mildly amusing, and a decent disc.
I long for the days, not so long ago, when Adam Sandler’s comedy had an edge. He used to be bitter, and bizarre, and remarkably offensive and crude. Now it seems he’s taken the schmaltzy Robin Williams route. The success of The Wedding Singer seems to have taught Sandler that the public wants him to be goofy and loveable. What a shame. I am hoping that he redeems himself with this fall’s Little Nicky, in which he plays the son of Satan…literally. But enough lamenting the course of one comedian’s career.
Adam Sandler plays Sonny Koufax, a thirtysomething law school grad whose life is going nowhere. His girlfriend Vanessa (Kristy Swanson — Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Chase) is about to leave him. His roommate Kevin (Jon Stewart — The Faculty, Playing By Heart) is about to marry Corinne (Leslie Mann — The Cable Guy, George Of The Jungle), a doctor who used to be a Hooters girl. A series of events gives Sonny the chance to “adopt” six-year-old Julian. He thinks this will impress his girlfriend, but she’s already shacked up with an older guy with a five-year plan (“What is it? Don’t die?”). Sonny is entirely unprepared to care for a child, and blithely goes about ruining the child’s life. In the process he breaks several legal codes (such as public urination, trespassing, and theft), and lets Julian run amok. He uses Julian to attract the attention of a cute lawyer, Layla (Joey Lauren Adams — Dazed And Confused, Chasing Amy). Naturally, the Children Services Department catches up with him and busts him for impersonating Julian’s real father, Sonny’s roommate Kevin. The climax takes place in an improbable court scene prior to the obligatory happy ending.
Columbia turned out a nice DVD for Big Daddy. The movie is presented both in 1.85:1 anamorphic and in full-frame, on opposite sides of the disc. The picture is very pretty. I noticed no digital artifacts. Colors are accurate and nicely saturated.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround. The Dolby Digital track left much to be desired. The rear channels are rarely used, and I do not think I noticed the LFE meter on my receiver twitch until the end credits, during Guns’N’Roses’ live version of their classic “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The dialogue has a very unnaturally clean tone, like the entire movie was looped in the studio.
The extras include a 13-minute making-of featurette produced for HBO, cast biographies, five trailers (two for Big Daddy, one each for Go, Dick, and Ghostbusters), and two music videos. Two of the trailers are 1.85:1 widescreen, the others are full-frame. With the exception of Ghostbusters, each features Dolby 5.1 sound. The music videos are of Sheryl Crow’s rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and Garbage’s “When I Grow Up.” Both are full-frame, and feature Dolby Stereo sound. I would have appreciated a commentary track by Sandler and his screenwriting collaborator, Tim Herlihy.
My assessment of Big Daddy was perhaps a bit harsh. The movie is cute and entertaining, and it has its funny moments (most of them provided by Steve Buscemi as a homeless man), but it disappoints me because the humor fails to rise (or lower) to the level set by Sandler’s greatest movies, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Those movies, particularly Billy Madison, elevate themselves because of their peculiarity. Hallucinations of a giant talking penguin, a hockey player who becomes a golf champion, a disgruntled cross-dressing, serial-killing classmate who saves the day…that’s funny. Adopting a kid and letting him eat ketchup packets for lunch is not as original or funny. It’s never fair to judge a movie based on the previous work of its stars, but I expect a lot from an Adam Sandler flick because I’ve enjoyed his television work, comedy albums, and preceding movies so much. I think it’s fair to compare him to Robin Williams. Williams used to be, and still has the potential to be very, very funny. But, he’s made too many sappy pseudo-comedies like Patch Adams and Bicentennial Man for me to ever watch him outside of a Comedy Relief special. Sandler hasn’t ventured quite as far down the path of Saccharine Dreck, but he best beware.
If you like Adam Sandler, Big Daddy is worth a regular-priced rental, but don’t expect anything on par with his good movies. Don’t bother to buy it unless you really enjoyed it (like my wife did).