Mr. Deeds (2002) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Mr. Deeds makes a critical error and never recovers. It positions Adam Sandler as the straight-man and casts Winona Ryder as the farcical character. This is a terrible miscalculation on the writing level, it locks comedian into a state of reacting to the supposedly humorous behavior of Ryder’s undercover news reporter. Problem is, this isn’t nearly as funny as watching Sandler maneuver through these situation, and Deeds is an angelic simpleton who seems as disinterested in the film’s plot mechanics as Sandler appears to be himself.

Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler) is an affable, sweetheart of a fella, who leads a quiet but happy life in the tiny Rockwell-esque town of Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire. Life is good at the small town restaurant where Deeds reads his weekly entry to Hallmark. He longs to be accepted and write greeting cards for a living. That’s until two corporate execs bring news that Deeds long-lost relative (a Richard Branson type, who was killed in a climbing accident) has left him an inheritance of 40 billion dollars along with the largest media conglomerate in the world.

The world’s newest billionaire becomes a media sensation. His acts of kindness and mystery past are quickly exploited by tabloid news programs. Struggling reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) is assigned to get dirt on Deeds and capture him on video in uncompromising situations. Of course, Babe and Longfellow develop a romance and her professional intentions conflict with her emotions attachment to Deeds.

Mr. Deeds may have been a financial success for Sony and Sandler, but it is one of the low-points for long-time fans of the former SNL stand-out. This fish out of water, rags to riches story is so formulaic and devoid of any statical bit, or comedic wit that its blandness comes off as offensive. Even in similarly pat sit-com scenarios (ala Big Daddy) Sandler’s aggressive nature and overbearing presence carried the day. He is so subdued in Mr. Deeds that, he actually looks bored in his own comedies, it’s a look I’ve seen on Chevy Chase’s face while he was trapped in his lesser films.

Director: Steven Brill
Stars: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro

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