Happy Gilmore Review

Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) grew up believing that he would be a hockey player, but his foul-mouthed temper and bad discipline always ensured he was the last to be picked for his local team. With only his old grandmother as family, Happy struggles to keep a job or a girlfriend, and is given an impossible task of having to find nearly three hundred thousand dollars when his grandmother's home is due to be seized by the IRS. However, unknown to Happy, he has a monstrous hockey shot, that would win him prizes in any golf tournament. Exploited by veteran pro golfer Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers), Happy soon enters tournaments and realises that his colourful and aggressive personality are not only bringing him massive fans, but could also earn him the money to save his grandmother's house. However, scheming golf rival Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) wants to win the golden jacket for himself, and will do anything to protect the 'etiquette' of golf and stop Happy winning.

Whereas most mainstream comedy efforts of the nineties were stupid, humourless affairs that failed to capitalise on the gains made by such fine eighties examples as Airplane!, The Naked Gun or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Happy Gilmore possesses a paradoxical 'dumb intelligence', and elevates itself to the highest level of farcical comedy. It's the sort of film that plays along the same conventions as the Farrelly Brothers' excellent There's Something About Mary, suggesting that it understands how comedy can be used to its advantage.

Yes the humour is very stupid in places, but it is so refreshingly devoid of any goofing around for the camera's benefit. Happy is a serious individual on a serious quest; the comic situations arise out of the stupidity of the situations he finds himself in. For example, it's hilarious when Happy has a violent fist-fight with Price Is Right host Bob Barker over a charity golf game. This isn't because it's funny to see a young guy fighting an old guy, but because we firmly believe that given the right taunting Happy would have no qualms fighting anybody.

Funnily enough, we don't hate Happy because of his vicious temper (we never hated McEnroe either in real life) because we the audience seem to understand the chip on his shoulder and know that his heart is in the right place. Happy isn't horrible, he just has an inferiority complex, unlike his main rival Shooter McGavin, played in a deliciously menacing way by Christopher McDonald. Shooter seems to represent the three-dimensional version of the Simpson's Troy McClure - a pretentious and self-absorbed playboy drawn straight out of nineteen-thirties' Hollywood. McDonald gives Shooter a fantastic sense of 'bad-guy' characteristics, even though we know his only real crime is to try and cheat at golf. Ben Stiller almost steals the show in a brief cameo as the Orderly in the nursing home - exhibiting a mean streak of terror amongst his old-age patients as soon as their young siblings have left. Even Carl Weathers, most famous for playing Apollo Creed in Rocky, demonstrates that he is not as much of a leftfield choice as may first seem, with a warm and funny performance as Happy's mentor Chubbs.

Sandler himself is at his best when his characters conflict a hard edge with a nice edge, such as in Big Daddy or The Wedding Singer, and this film contains arguably his finest performance. It's no surprise that Sandler wrote the film with co-scripter Tim Herlihy, as he seems confident about comic timing to the extent that you can sense he understands the script well. Dennis Dugan gives the film a bright exterior that is always the perfect ambience for a Hollywood comedy, as they should try their utmost to keep the audience in a positive and cheery frame of mind. There's Something About Mary was set in gorgeous Florida and contained many bouncy pop-songs on the soundtrack, and Happy Gilmore is very similar, replacing the lush Florida setting with the perfection of golf courses; the sun glistening gently through the trees. It's a glorious setting, and helps each jokey sequence be delivered better to the audience.

How do you judge a film like this? It's funny, it hits its targets in an assured fashion and it doesn't set out to be anything other than what the trailer presents it as. Happy Gilmore is a perfect night's no-brainer comedy entertainment, and is vying with There's Something About Mary for title of the best mainstream farcical comedy of the nineties. Already a cult hit, the film will separate the camps firmly, like most comedies do, but will still please a large portion of audiences who still appreciate the formulaic Hollywood comedy. Be warned that the UK release is cut by the BBFC by nearly a minute, but these cuts are not easily spotted and do not spoil the enjoyment.

Here's the surprise. Despite the Region 1 version being presented in fullscreen, and Universal's penchant for non-anamorphic treatment of bare-bones back-catalogue releases, fans will be delighted to note that the Region 2 version of Happy Gilmore is presented in fantastic anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The picture is sharp and vivid in tone and the colours are bright and vibrant.

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound mix is very good in terms of audio definition and volume level even if the surround elements are particularly lacking and only appear to be slightly more than a 2.0 mix.

Menu: A silent and static menu traditionally seen in the early ages of DVD menus.

Packaging: Presented in a typical amaray packaging with a sunnier cover artwork compared to the Region 1. A four page chapter-listing insert is provided inside the amaray.


Trailer: A funny original trailer, especially considering the Region 1 version doesn't claim to have any extras.

Cast & Filmmakers: Decent textual biographies of the main cast and crew are presented, along with selected filmographies.

Production Notes: Some interesting textual production notes are included about the film backed with promo stills.


Feelgood golfing comedy at its best, Happy Gilmore is one of those rare treats in which the case applies that if you love the film enough you won't care about the lack of extras. This Region 2 version also wins because of its anamorphic widescreen picture transfer, and a brief sprinkle of extras, but ultimately this DVD contains all of the requirements to be a barebones gem.

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