Adam Sandler has had a career that’s been something of a roller coaster, especially when it comes to critical reception of his works. Sure, the guy came on the scene in a big way on Saturday Night Live making his bones on a range of sophomoric songs and silly voices. Those sound like taking a dig, but they aren’t. He translated that into a string of, well, sophomoric movies as well even if they often did have a heart to them. The later career has seen him take something of a turn to the more reliable, which is a great sign.
But now you have a chance to catch one of his early films that gives a sense of Adam Sandler when he was still in these rather early stages of movie-making. That being said, you don’t have much time. Mr. Deeds is soon leaving Netflix.
Mr. Deeds is Adam Sandler’s sixth widely-released comedy following a wildly popular run of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy. It continued on a path of a growing movement toward the actor becoming slightly more mature, which of course is an operative word when it comes to Sandler. He plays Longfellow Deeds, a small-town restaurant worker who finds himself the unlikely heir to a massive fortune when a long-lost billionaire uncle dies and has no close relatives to whom the inheritance should go. Check out the trailer for Mr. Deeds:
It’s a time-honored movie tradition to place the main character in a moderate fish-out-of-water scenario and in this case it’s Deeds and his simplistic view on life coming into life-changing money. He immediately runs into Winona Ryder’s character Babe Bennett, a tabloid reporter who tries to frame Deeds into a *chance* encounter in order to get a story. What ensues is standard movie fare when the two fall for each other and she’s eventually outed for her previous intentions.
At the core of the movie is Sandler’s basic unwillingness to really prosper from the money at all. He realizes, on some core mature level, that it’s not a path for happiness even if there are those familiar fits and spurts of juvenile behavior. And it’s those, plus the rather worn and silly premise that ultimately lets the movie down. But critics still took an unfair view of it.
Mr. Deeds didn’t perform well with critics which isn’t all that surprising considering Adam Sandler’s run in that realm during this time. It’s sitting at 22% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer with reviews mostly digging it for not holding up to the 1936 original movie Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. This is likely an unfair starting point considering the actor involved, but alas it didn’t help in this respect. Though in comparison to his previous five comedies, it did perform lower with the average of those sitting at 45%
But at the box office, it drew the Adam Sandler crowd for sure. On a $50 million budget it snagged over $170 million. Once again the guy was a massive draw then and continues to be now.
While Mr. Deeds is far from a great movie, it does give us some of those glimmers of hope for the actor’s career. We’d seen them sparingly but they were increasing in this time period. Ultimately they culminated just a few months later in September 2002 with Punch-Drunk Love. That movie was released and ushered in a totally new look for the actor. I contend it was along the same path we saw with The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, and then at times with Mr. Deeds. We were seeing an actor come into his own.
Adam Sandler’s career has taken a continued positive turn in recent years. Sure, he has your standard Sandler flick like Hubie Halloween. But he’s coming off an absolute star turn in Uncut Gems and an underrated role in The Meyerowitz Stories: (New and Selected). It’s clear the actor still very much has the chops to lead a differing set of movies.
But it’s always worth it to go back and look at an actor’s earlier work. And in terms of Adam Sandler, Mr. Deeds isn’t the one you think of when considering his early resume. But critics were overly hard on the film in general, choosing to compare it to the original and maybe running on fumes with Sandler’s antics. There’s still time to catch it on Netflix.