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"Mr. Deeds" Movie Review


Winona Ryder and Adam Sandler star in Columbia Pictures' romantic comedy, "Mr. Deeds."
©2002 Columbia Pictures - All Rights Reserved.


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In the romantic comedy "Mr. Deeds," Adam Sandler returns to the sweet, goofy 'every man' type of role that's his bread and butter, steering clear from any reference to the generally disliked, "Little Nicky." Surrounding himself with a wickedly funny supporting cast, including scene-stealers John Turturro and Steve Buscemi, Sandler's Longfellow Deeds is a guy we can relate to, a guy faced with tough choices who stumbles a little while just trying to keep it all in perspective.

Loosely based on the Academy Award-winning classic, "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," which starred Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, this rendition moves the film into the corporate world of greed, big money and tabloid TV.

Sandler's Longfellow Deeds is a decent enough guy, popular throughout his small town of Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire. He's obliviously happy as the owner of a pizza restaurant who tries out his sappy greeting card prose on a captive pizza-eating audience (he aspires to write for Hallmark). Life goes along peachy-keen until big city businessmen, Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher) and his assistant, Anderson (Erick Avari), blow into town. Cedar and Anderson notify Deeds that he's inherited $40 billion, a couple of sports teams, and a chain of media outlets from a long-lost relative, Preston Blake (Harve Presnell). Yanked from his peaceful "Mayberry RFD" existence into a world of corporate backstabbing, Deeds finds himself at the center of a media feeding frenzy.

Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder), a reporter for a trashy tabloid TV show, leads the pack of sharks circling Deeds for any sign of vulnerability. Uncovering his weakness for women in distress, Bennett goes undercover as a small town girl who needs rescuing in the big city. Deeds, predictably, falls madly in love with her, blinded by her batting eyes and damsel in distress act. With Babe secretly filming all of Deed's most embarrassing moments for "Inside Access," Deeds is soon the laughing stock of Manhattan and a disgrace to his dead relative's corporation. When Deeds discovers those he thought were on his side are actually working against him, he has to decide whether to flee or stay and fight the corporate baddies. He also has to figure out if Babe's truly after his heart, or only after a news story.

Adam Sandler's Deeds is a familiar character, likable, if not just a bit too perfect. This character harkens back to Sandler's Robbie Hart in "The Wedding Singer," without that character's misery. Director Steven Brill sees many similarities between the actor and Deeds saying, "Adam's a funny guy, and when the camera stops, he's pretty much the same. He doesn't really change. In that sense, Adam is very similar to his character, Deeds."

This is Sandler's movie but he stands no chance in scenes opposite John Turturro. As the sneaky, quick-as-a-cat butler, Emilio, Turturro provides the movie's funniest moments. Is there any character this guy can't play? He's done it all, and in "Mr. Deeds" he steals scene after scene.

Frequent Sandler movie cast member, Steve Buscemi ("The Wedding Singer," "Big Daddy," "Billy Madison"), plays the aptly named 'Crazy Eyes' - a kind of local oddball who orders bizarre combinations of toppings on his pizza and who offers even more bizarre advise. Buscemi is always first-rate at portraying these 'off' characters, bringing that extra dimension to roles that are pretty flat on paper.

As Deeds' love interest, Winona Ryder doesn't really sell the part. There's not much chemistry between the two however it's not so bad that it detracts too much from the film. Though the movie does slow up during the romantic parts, it's able to regain speed whenever Sandler interacts with Turturro, Buscemi, or Peter Gallagher.

The film delivers as promised on most levels, however it does help to be an Adam Sandler fan to begin with. "Mr. Deeds" takes full advantage of the sort of gags and humor Sandler's previous films have called on with success, while showing sparks of originality and mostly avoiding that 'cookie cutter' feel. With an endearing character the audience can actually get behind, "Mr. Deeds" cashes in on jokes while mildly delivering a lesson in morality. "Mr. Deeds" serves to show that Sandler is trying to recapture that audience that slunk away after "Little Nicky." This film is funny enough that it should be able to pull back in any wary Sandler fans.

Overall Grade: B

"Mr. Deeds" is rated PG-13 for language, including some sexual references, and some rear nudity.



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