HAPPY GILMORE (1996) 

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Adam Sandler
Christopher McDonald
Julie Bowen
Frances Bay
Carl Weathers
Ben Stiller
Allen Covert

Dennis Dugan



Time: 92 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy/Romance

Though I think Adam Sandler is a very funny person, most of the time his comedy is best endured in small doses. That's beginning to change with films like THE WEDDING SINGER, which was more than a one joke story. Unfortunately, HAPPY GILMORE is. It's one of his first films and it shows. The story just isn't sustainable for a feature length film. GILMORE has points of hilarity that rival that other golf film classic, CADDYSHACK, but not enough to make it good. What's amazing is though Sandler is not a great actor, the film lags when he's not onscreen. He has a presence and energy that's undeniable, it just needs to be harnessed better. He seems to be under the impression he needs to play the underdog to be likable. He's got leading man potential, he just needs to grow up.

As for this film, another loser versus the system affair, Sandler plays Happy Gilmore, a young man with a serious anger problem and a true love of hockey. Even though he can't skate, Happy tries and tries and tries to become a professional player. A joke on the tryout circuit, he can't seem to get his life together. Hockey is his one true passion. It's a dream he refuses to let go off. Too bad life has other plans. He is forced to find some means of gainful employment in order to help his grandmother pay off two decades of back taxes to the IRS. If she can't come up with $150,000 dollars in 90 days they're going to take her house. Happy tries to reason with them. How can they do this to the woman who raised him? A sweet, old lady who's never hurt a soul? The agent has heard it all before and gives Grandma no leeway.

A bet with the moving men removing his Grandmother's stuff, shows Happy his new calling in life. The bet is to hit a golf ball further than one of the movers. It turns out to be the easiest thing he's ever won. His unusual swing – a great visual that's a source of constant amusement – rockets the ball down the street through the second story window of a house over 400 yards away. His second and third shots go just as far. This is no accident. Happy finally has hope. Maybe he can save his Grandma's house after all. With nothing to lose, he enters the local open tournament, which goes better than he expected. With a spot on the pro tour in hand, Happy embarks on his new career.

"Son of a bitch ball! Why can't you go home? Aren't you good enough for your home? Answer me! Suck my white ass ball!"

His colorful antics on the course endear him to fans, but offend the other players. What Happy quickly realizes is that on the tour everybody gets paid something, even if they come in last place, so he doesn't really care how poorly he plays. The money starts rolling in and the more he plays the better he becomes. His newfound status even makes him popular with the ladies. Shooter McGavin (McDonald), the tour's best player, is not about to be upstaged by a punk like Happy. His sole purpose is making Happy miserable and keeping him poor. He also tries to steal his girl. Shooter is the least of Happy's concerns. He's in love, he's playing well and it looks like Grandma's debt is going to be paid off in time. That is until his famous temper gets the better of him. Happy finds himself in a make or break situation that requires every ounce of strength and resolve he can come up with. Let's just say, the film ends on a happy note.

HAPPY GILMORE is not a great movie, but it does have its' charm. Though Happy's not the most emotionally stable of characters, at least he's not mentally challenged like most of Sandler's creations. Despite being a loser, he's the only compelling character in the film. We've seen all the other characters before – ditzy grandma, mean-spirited rival, perky girlfriend, down-and-out coach. The supporting cast is either sorely underused or chewing up the scenery. There's no middle ground. Carl Weathers is the only one who manages to stand out. Bowen is mere window dressing and McDonald is more annoying than funny. Stiller's cameo as the mean-spirited nursing home worker is tired and overplayed. The film as a whole plays like a high school version of TIN CUP.

That being said, I have to admit I chuckled every time Sandler swung the club. It's a sight gag that never got old, especially if you've ever tried to play golf. His bits on the course, were the best part of the film. I'm sure everyone who's attempted to master the game has wanted to scream at the ball like Sandler does. The other bit that made me laugh out loud is Happy's fist fight with Bob Barker at a celebrity golf tournie. There's nothing like watching Barker kick the crap out of Sandler. It's almost worth sitting through the whole film for that one scene. Almost. If you like Sandler and his brand of comedy, you will assuredly enjoy this movie. For those of you, looking for a little something more, rent CADDYSHACK. It may be somewhat dated, but it's still first rate comedy.

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