What happens when a nice guy from Mandrake Falls, a small town in Vermont, inherits $40 billion and a substantial portion of his great-uncle’s media conglomerate? He goes to New York, meets the girl of his dreams and stops evil executives from breaking apart his late uncle’s company of course.
This is the basic plot of a 1936 Frank Capra movie titled Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. But this Friday, the story returns to the screen, and this time it’s done Adam Sandler-style.
Classic Adam Sandler high jinks are found throughout Mr. Deeds. Sandler’s Deeds has a hobby. He writes greeting-card poems. Or at least he tries. The poems that Deeds submits to Hallmark are laughable but very endearing. Good call on the part of the writer to keep this quirk from the original, although I doubt Gary Cooper’s Deeds wrote poems ending with, “Even when your bosoms sag down to the floor.”
John Turturro leads the comic supporting cast as Emilio, Deeds’ butler. The movie is worth seeing for Turturro’s performance alone. He has perfect comedic timing, as always, and to be honest, he and Adam Sandler are a better onscreen couple than Winona Ryder and Sandler are. When Deeds practiced his marriage proposal on Emilio, I was rooting for Emilio to accept before Ryder’s character got the chance.
Another highlight performance is Steve Buscemi as Crazy Eyes. Crazy Eyes is the local psycho in Mandrake Falls, but Deeds brings him pizza with Oreos and french fries on it anyway. (Hmm, Steve Buscemi cast as a freak again. Maybe someone is trying to tell him something.)
The major weak point in the film is the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder – there isn’t any. The couple is just not believable on screen. When Babe Bennett (Ryder) chases Deeds to Mandrake Falls in order to win him back, she runs into a few obstacles, such as Jan, the woman who works at Deeds’ pizza place, and falls through the ice on a lake. The problem is the audience should want her to get past the obstacles and end up with Deeds, but I sure didn’t. I was wishing that she would get beaten up or drown or just go back to New York.
So, in the end, Mr. Deeds is simply classic Sandler fare, with the same raucous, hit-or-miss humor of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. What the film doesn’t offer, however, is the type of romantic chemistry that brought The Wedding Singer to a higher plane.