Mr. Deeds

Adam Sandler's new movie is pretty much like all his movies. There is a certain level he stays within, never letting his movies be too bad, but never letting them be much good either. He has a certain fan base that knows what to expect, and Sandler knows exactly what to give them. This means that every year or so, he releases another lame movie and plays a variation on the same person (the decent underdog), using similar jokes. This time, Sandler (The Animal, Little Nicky) is Longfellow Deeds, or as his character prefers, just Deeds. Mr. Deeds is a loose remake of Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and this alone is worrisome. Many people consider the original a classic, and putting the Sandler twist on it is sure to ruin it. Well, like always, he pulls through, making movies the way he wants to.

Deeds owns a pizza parlor in suburban Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire, and in his spare time he tries to sell greeting cards to Hallmark. What he doesn't know is that he is the only living relative of a recently deceased owner of a global media empire. His great uncle's death entitles him to inherit a 49% share in his corporation, which is worth roughly $40 billion. Unbeknownst to Deeds, Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher, Center Stage, Perfume) wants to control those shares. He believes that Deeds is stupid, and is trying to convince him to sells the shares to him. Screenwriter Tim Herlihy (Little Nicky, Big Daddy) writes Deeds as genuinely good guy. He is giving lots of his newfound money to those in need, and doesn't like it when people curse in front of women. Paradoxically, he will lay the smackdown on anybody he feels is being rude or doing something wrong.

In steps "Pam Dawson," (Winona Ryder, Autumn in New York, Lost Souls), a producer for the tabloid program Inside Access. Her boss Mac (Jared Harris, Shadow Magic, How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog) is out to discover Deeds' identity (Cedar is hiding to try to make his takeover easier). Dawson goes undercover as a sweet school nurse, playing on what Deeds wants in a woman. Initially, she doesn't believe that anybody can be this good, and soon begins to truly fall for him. Guess where this is going? Dawson's guilt eventually gets the better of her, and she decides to tell all to Deeds. Of course, before this can happen, Deeds discovers the truth himself, and breaks things off with Dawson.

For a comedy, there are very few laughs. Thankfully, Sandler is not as annoying as he is sometimes, but director Steven Brill (Little Nicky, Heavyweights) does little to make Mr. Deeds appealing. Many of the premises never make sense. Why does Deeds need to fly back to New York? Wouldn't Cedar just complete and bring the papers for him to sign? Why is Mac so intent on bringing Deeds down? Just airing his identity and interviewing him should yield ratings that are just as high. This is another black mark for Ryder, who is currently not on a good streak. The Pam role requires little in the way of her considerable talent, and seems to be more for a paycheck. The same goes for the number of actors who seem willing to appear, even briefly in a Sandler film. Brill never makes the story or characters interesting enough to invest the time and attention necessary to enjoy Mr. Deeds.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some rear nudity.

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