'Mr. Deeds' not Sandler's best

Grade: C+

"Mr. Deeds" stars Adam Sandler ("The Wedding Singer," "Happy Gilmore") in a plot we all know very well: "A small town nobody (for this movie, Longfellow Deeds) inherits a fortune and the responsibility that comes with it. Big bad corporate goons try to weasel the fortune from him while the unlikely hero falls in love." I am sure you can imagine how the film ends.

The filmmakers of "Mr. Deeds" tried really hard. I'll give them that much. Tim Herlihy's screenplay is based on the classic 1936 film "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town." While the updated version isn't blasphemous towards the original, I somehow doubt your grandparents will be able to appreciate it. Herlihy has written or co-written every one of Sandler's films to date, so he's definitely had his hits and misses before.

For the most part, "Mr. Deeds" does a pretty fair job of executing the familiar tale. Unfortunately, it often goes about things the wrong way. I am sure Adam Sandler fans will not be disappointed at the plethora of low-brow humor, but for the casual film-goer, Sandler's forte only impedes the flow of an otherwise charming movie.

It's too bad, really. Sandler proved to the world he could carry a clever film when he made "Waterboy." He also proved he didn't need gross-out humor as a crutch when he made "The Wedding Singer," which is easily his most solid effort to date. "Mr. Deeds" comes oh-so-close to "The Wedding Singer" status a few times, but just when it nearly does, someone invariably gets hit with a fire poker or smashes a table. Be warned: this film contains an unusual amount of table-smashing.

It should also go on record that "Mr. Deeds" features some terrible technical filmmaking. The short list includes several visible microphones, atrocious editing, inconsistent lighting and, worst of all, it breaks the revered 180 degree rule. Twice.

Still, the movie has its moments. Despite the low ends, "Mr. Deeds" also has some of the cleverest sight gags in recent years. You can't imagine how funny seven cats and a Jamaican woman can be until you see this movie.

As with any Sandler flick, the supporting cast is superb. The audience applauded when Steve Buscemi ("Ghost World," "Fargo") appeared on camera, and rightfully so. John Turturro ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?") delivers as a sneaky butler with a rather uncomfortable on-screen presence. I still don't know how Sandler manages to snag actors of that caliber for his movies.

It should also be mentioned that Sandler's character is almost likable throughout the entire movie. It's too bad a few Sandler-esque fits of anger spoil the illusion.

"Mr. Deeds" has a lot of heart...but ultimately it fails where Chris Farley's "Tommy Boy" succeeded. "Tommy Boy," which had a very similar plot, managed to pace its juvenile humor within the touching story of a small town man. Sandler can't pull off the switch between styles, and the over-the-top comedy just feels a little bit out of place.

You could go see "Mr. Deeds" this week, and you'll probably have a good time. But you could also wait until it is out on video, and you won't be missing out on a whole lot. Except for seven cats and a Jamaican woman. You really ought to see that part.


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