Mr. Deeds Review

Mr Deeds seems to be the perfect antithesis to Adam Sandler's most recent effort, the bizarre, experimental collaboration with P.T. Anderson that resulted in Punch-Drunk Love. Deeds is formulaic, by-the-numbers entertainment and the sort of stupid, feel-good comedy that fans of Sandler's earlier work, such as Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, will surely love. Officially, the film is a remake of the thirties' Gary Cooper classic Mr Deeds Goes To Town, but other than the loose premise of plot none of the original's biting satire or fantastical rags-to-riches essence is maintained.

Despite the new version's lack of respect to its predecessor, with goofiness stamping over the original's integrity, it's still an acceptable effort if governed by the genre rules that seem to have elevated Sandler to the heights of mainstream comedy. Mr. Deeds knows its limits and does not ever strive to reach anything beyond its own set standard. Sandler's protagonist, Longfellow Deeds, is merely an extension of any of his other lead roles, ranging from Big Daddy to Happy Gilmore which seems to be the sweet simple guy with a hot temper. You have to hand it to Sandler for carving out is own niche market, in which he merely has to transplant essentially the same character into many different loose settings to accommodate his comedy.

The plot of Mr. Deeds is relatively simple. Sandler's Longfellow Deeds is a Mandrake Falls pizza delivery guy turned amateur greeting card writer whose small-town lack of adventure soon takes a turn for the strange. When visited by shifty business tycoon Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher), Deeds learns that he has an uncle Preston Blake who has recently died. Unaware of the relative, Deeds also learns that as the only relative of the uncle, he is to inherit Blake's forty billion-dollar fortune. Travelling to New York to finalise the details, Deeds becomes the subject of media frenzy sparked by ambitious reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder). Her mission is to find out all she can about the unknown heir to the Blake billions, even if that means pretending to fall in love with the man himself. Soon, Deeds discovers that there's more to life than money, and finds himself an alien amongst the New York elite.

Fans of the original Gary Cooper version will probably throw their arms up in disgust, even if they should have known better than to expect anything other than a very loose remake from Sandler and co. The partially borrowed premise is used by director Steven Brill and frequent Sandler scripter Tim Herlihy to hang some goofy laughs, that hit the mark more than most. Fans of Sandler pre-Punch-Drunk Love should know what to expect by now anyhow, and it's fair to say that you should enjoy Deeds is you consider Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy as entertaining comedy. Many of the jokes fail miserably, but somehow you don't hold it against the film, as it seems to generate a feelgood sense of fun totally removed from a realistic form of cynical comedy. Deeds is as much a fantasy as Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy. Rather than have Sandler prove he can succeed at Golf with no prior skills or succeed at parenting someone else's child as in some of the actor's earlier movies, Deeds merely throws billions of dollars at him and watches the results.

In terms of performances, Mr. Deeds has a stronger cast than you would expect, and is rather fortunate that it backs Sandler with both Winona Ryder and Peter Gallagher. Ryder, usually finding herself in edgier roles, stroles through her performance as Babe Bennett, but still manages to provide the beautiful and token love interest. Gallagher is a delight as smarky Chuck Cedar, even if he should surely be aiming higher and at better roles for his career's sake. The major shock is that John Turturro appears in the film as Deeds' butler Emilio, and although he turns in a fine comedic performance, surely he has earned the chance to resist the mainstream circuit.

For a breezy night in, or for fans of strictly average comedy, Mr. Deeds will please anyone not looking for anything that comes close to being cerebral. Sandler's fans should pounce on this film, considering the Golden Globe nomination and slight critical praise he received for Punch-Drunk Love, which suggests that his newly acquired confidence could pull him towards different directions in Hollywood. Even so, Deeds suggests that his protagonist roles need more variation, and maybe it's time for Sandler to test himself in more unknown waters.

Picture Quality
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, the transfer is very good, with a decent colour palette that gives the film a fresh feel. Any digital detriment, or print defect is kept to a minimum, and the imagery is generally very sharp and detailed.

Sound Quality
The film is presented in a 5.1 surround mix that rarely shows off rear action in terms of channelling, and occasionally contains surround work in terms of background sound effects. The musical score often takes charge of the left / right channels, and sounds crisp and powerful. Dialogue is sharp and clearly audible, even if mostly kept to the central channel.

Menu Design
An animated menu system based on poster imagery of the film, and featuring static images moving around the screen. Screen transitions are formed by sequences from the film.


Audio Commentary With Steven Brill & Tim Herlihy
Although it's disappointing that Sandler is not featured on the commentary track, the director / writer duo of the film more than make up for his absence with a very funny, rapid-fire delivery that suggests that much fun was had during the making of the film. Brill and Herlihy's banter is often exhaustive at times, and some material is reflected upon that already features in some of the other extras on the DVD, but this commentary is a welcome companion to the film.

Deleted Scenes (4 Mins)
Six deleted sequences are featured in non-anamorphic widescreen and are essentially short joke sequences that never made the final cut of the film. An option to Play All is included, and although some of the sequences are funny, it's understandable why they were excised from the film.

Featurettes (32 Mins)
Three featurettes are included and focus on different aspects of the film's production. From Mandrake Falls To Manhattan is a general 'making of' of the film featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the film mixed with interviews and film clips. Spare No Expense deals with the film's changes of production design, and Clothes Make The Man unsurprisingly focuses on the film's costume design.

Dave Matthews Band - "Where Are You Going" (Music Video) (4 Mins)
Massive in the states but relative unknowns here, the Dave Matthews Band provide a music video tie-in for one of their recent hits "Where Are You Going" and is presented in fullscreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Outtakes Reel (2 Mins)
A two minute reel of outtakes from the film that are mostly unfunny and backed with annoying music.

Textual filmographies are included of the director and writer along with the four main stars of the film.

Deeds Greeting Cards
A fun collection of readings from Deeds' various in-film Greeting card creations, complete with narrator. Six are included in total.

Theatrical Trailers
Trailers for Mr. Deeds is included along with Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights, Men In Black II and Big Daddy.

A likeable comedy offering from Sandler and co is given a decent if rarely overwhelming DVD release. There's clearly enough to please fans on this release, although many casual onlookers might wish to rent first before purchasing, as there may be a limited rewatch value to the film.

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