Directed by Tamra Davis
Starring: Adam Sandler, Darren McGavin, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Bradley Whitford, Norm MacDonald
Tamra Davis directed this goofy 1995 film starring Adam Sandler in the title role. Davis was also responsible for the 1998 stoner classic Half Baked. In addition to Sandler, this movie stars Darren McGavin, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Bradley Whitford, and Norm MacDonald. When Billy Madison was released it met mixed reviews, but this movie is filled with funny moments that have made it a guilty pleasure for me almost 17 years later.
The late Darren McGavin holds a special place in my heart for his role in A Christmas Story. In addition to films, McGavin had a long career in television. Bridgette Wilson-Sampras hasn’t acted much in recent years. She has been in films like Mortal Kombat and The Wedding Planner. Bradley Whitford has had a great television career since Billy Madison. He had three Golden Globe nominations for his role in The West Wing. Norm MacDonald has been a regular in many of Sandler’s other films over the past 15 years.
Billy is the only son of his wealthy hotel magnate father (McGavin). His wealthy upbringing has left him irresponsible and uneducated. When his behavior gets out of hand his father decides to pass on the family business to Eric Gordon (Whitford) unless Billy can go back and complete all twelve grades of school. Now Billy is back in school and hoping to make the grade.
This movie has some great lines and some funny moments. Sandler still has some of his SNL energy going throughout the film. The cast around him are all funny at times, but the film doesn’t really keep any consistent laughs going. In a lot of ways this film feels like a testing ground for Sandler to see what he could and couldn’t do in films. This equals a mix of failures and successes. One of the highlights of this movie is actually the performance of Chris Farley who has a minor part, but shows some of the comedic skills that would eventually make him a star.
This movie joins some others in my guilty pleasure category. Could it be the impromptu musical number? Perhaps the bathroom humor? I’m not sure but it’s a movie I’ll keep in my collection. Part of this might be that I was at the right age for this movie when it was released, and it’s fun to watch despite the flaws. That being said, I would agree with Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times who commented; “Sandler has a bad habit of thinking he is funnier than we do.” This might be evidenced by his recent film failures including Jack and Jill and Grown Ups.
Without being too sentimental I can easily rate this at 2.8 out of 5 stars. It’s a goofy comedy that lacks the wit of movies like Caddyshack and The Naked Gun.