U.S. Release Date: June 28, 2002
Distributor: Sony / Columbia
Director: Steven Brill
Writer: Tim Herlihy
Producer: Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler (executive)
Composer: Teddy Castellucci
Cast: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro, Peter Gallagher, Jared Harris, Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider (Cameo)
Running Time: 1 hour and 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (language including sexual references, and some rear nudity)

Half Stupid, Half Sweet
by Sean Saulsbury

I went to see Mr. Deeds with very little expectation and no preconceptions of what it ought to be. I knew it was a remake of Frank Capra's 1936 picture Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which I had not seen. Nor am I a big Adam Sandler fan. The ads show Deeds as a straight comedy, featuring juvenile jokes and slap-stick comedy. Really, though, it is a pleasant romantic comedy; a story of a man who, in the course of inheriting $40 billion, finds his one true love.

Here is the setup: the owner of Blake Enterprises, a billion dollar news corporation, has died. With no will, his money and interest in the company are handed over to his closest known relative: Longfellow Deeds, played by Sandler. The president of Blake Enterprises (Peter Gallager) secretly seeks out Deeds so he can buy out his interest in the company and continue to run it.

Sandler plays Deeds with his typical I'm-not-too-bright-but-have-a-good-heart shtick. Deeds is a pizza restaurant owner who writes wanna-be Hallmark greeting cards in crayon with a laugh-because-it's-stupid style. He ventures back to New York to finalize the sale of his newly inherited shares of Blake Enterprises for $40 billion.

Meanwhile the media is in a frenzy, trying to find who the new owner of the company is. This causes major panic because if the media find out that Deeds controls Blake Enterprises, their stock is sure to plummet. It also creates a huge opportunity for TV tabloid reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder), who will do almost anything for her big break. When she learns Deeds has a soft spot for "the damsel in distress," she concocts a situation where she must be rescued by Deeds.

Bennett, disguised as "Pam Dawson," then begins to date Deeds to discover the inside story of his life. In the course of her reporting, she falls in love with Deeds. But when her story is twisted into a tabloid trash piece by her producers, she begins to question some of the compromises she's made in her own life. She wants to set the record straight and tell Deeds everything. But is she in too deep? A fair amount of screen time is put into her inner conflict and her relationship with Deeds as the picture turns into more of a boy-meets-girl story than a boy-inherits-$40 billion story.

Despite Deeds' doltish demeanor, he is appealing as a character because he does not sacrifice his benevolence or integrity upon acquiring his wealth. He treats everyone with the same respect and justice they deserve. (Okay, so he does go a little overboard with beating up those who are mean to him and his friends, but that's Adam Sandler's shtick.)

There are a few funny side characters thrown into the mix, such as Mac (Jared Harris) who plays the TV tabloid show host, as well as Deeds' friend back home, Crazy Eyes (Steve Buscemi)—who is both freaky and funny to look at. Tennis star John McEnroe (playing himself) also makes an appearance befriending Deeds in the course of his adventure in New York (as they both share similar anger-management techniques).

There are some product placements in the film that are blatantly obvious, though mostly played for comedy. I don't have a problem with product placement per se, but I do when it detracts from the story. If it brings focus to the kind of breakfast cereal the main character is eating, for example, when the scene being played is not about the character's breakfast cereal, then it detracts from the film and is a mistake.

In sum, this is an enjoyable picture if you're in the mood for a really cheesy romantic comedy. Half stupid and half sweet, Mr. Deeds probably won't be winning over any film purists who uphold the original as untouchable, but it does provide a few laughs.

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