With The Majestic, Frank Darabont successfully aped Frank Capra with not so much as a smidgen of ironic detachment. With Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler’s best bud, screenwriter Tim Herlihy, does the opposite by actually referencing the ironic detachment. Small town pizza man Longfellow Deeds (Sandler) inherits $40 million dollars, flies to New York, woos a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Winona Ryder) and teaches a few corporate bigwigs what it means to have a heart made of Capra. That Deeds is a warmhearted guy with an unpredictable mean streak seems less a subversion of nice guy myths than it is a violent bone thrown at Sandler fans. Picture this: Herlihy stumbling across a Capra marathon on AMC just as his writer’s block began to kick in. Since Herlihy couldn’t be any less concerned with taking jabs at Capra’s Rockwell traditionalism, Mr. Deeds is just Mr. Deeds Goes to Town updated for the Big Daddy crowd. In short, Herlihly gives Sandler his own Brewster’s Millions (or, say, King Ralph) and hopes all the while that audiences will admire him for hiding behind Capra. If Darabont sees the Midwest through cotton candy eyes, director Steven Brill’s gaze is entirely more contemptuous. The film’s Midwest scenes are noisy and offensive while the New York scenes are about as colorless as John McEnroe’s cameo performance and the bubble gum soundtrack. By virtue of being older than any of the other songs used here, U2’s “The Sweetest Thing” casts a retro spell over a Central Park bike ride scene. The rest is hit or miss. If you’ve seen a man get socked in the head by a tennis ball a million times then you’ll probably love what John Turturro does with his sneaky Spanish butler. One could say he steals the show from Winona Ryder.
- Steven Brill
- Tim Herlihy
- Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Jared Harris, Peter Gallagher, Conchata Ferrell, Allen Covert
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