Happy Gilmore (1996) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Carl Weathers, Frances Bay, Ben Stiller, Allen Covert, Joe Flaherty, Richard Kiel, Verne Lundquist, Bob Barker, Dennis Dugan, Kevin Nealon, Lee Trevino
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenplay: Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler
Review published January 7, 2006
I have to admit something here: when I first saw Happy Gilmore back in the late 1990s, I was actually mildly surprised at how much I liked it, despite a weak beginning and some hit-and-miss spots. Now seeing it again almost ten years later, I am actually surprised at how much of what I once liked about Sandler's most beloved comedy no longer appeals to me. Perhaps it's a case of having low expectations the first time, while much higher the second time. Whatever the case may be, Happy Gilmore remains a fits-and-starts comedy that benefits from some clever Sandler moments, but it's just too irritating to recommend it to anyone that doesn't already consider himself a fan.
Sandler (The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy) stars in the titular role, as a hotheaded aspiring hockey player that has a gift for powerful shots, but lacks the finesse to make the professional leagues. When his grandmother's house is taken away by the IRS, it's up to Happy to get enough money to keep it. He gets his opportunity when his long-drive skills merit him a spot on the latest golf tour, although his short game needs vast improving if he ever wants a chance to win the big dollars. His antics on the course are a distraction to the other players and he is threatened with suspension if he should continue his childish tantrums, although he is bringing in big ratings to the sport that the sponsors and owners envy. When his biggest rival, a hotshot golfer named Shooter McGavin, stands in the way of Happy and his continued success, Happy finds he must learn to be a true golfer if he wants to save the house, his face, and his sanity.
Perhaps the real reason why Happy Gilmore has lost some of its luster in my eyes comes from the fact that Sandler has rarely been able to deviate from the man-child characters that made him a star to begin with. Looking back at this one now, you feel like you aren't watching an individual film so much as one in a long series of dumb comedies that Sandler would star in. If you've grown tired of Sandler's shtick like I have, you'll find that Happy Gilmore is just another in the formula Sandler films, espousing dumb humor, whiny characters, boyish personalities, and cheeseball 70s and 80s pop tunes.
Before I go overboard in berating the film, I should mention that it isn't totally without laughs. Most of the humor comes from the seeming randomness of the visual gags at times, where you shake your head and guffaw at how silly Sandler is wiling to go to inject laughs. There's a great cameo from normally gentlemanly Bob Barker, a great foil in Christopher McDonald (Quiz Show, Breakin'), and the on-the-course golf action actually does manage to generate some excitement as things go down to the wire.
Happy Gilmore is one of Sandler's better dumb comedies, although probably not as good as its reputation among his fans would have you believe. It's fine for a few yuks and a mildly pleasant diversion, but I wouldn't go so far as to call this a must-see film, or even a good one for that matter. Your enjoyment will greatly be determined by how you feel about Sandler in general. If by some chance, you've never been exposed to a Sandler comedy before, this is probably the lesser of all of his evils.
©2006 Vince Leo