A lovable oaf adopts a five-year-old boy in order to impress a girlfriend. Misguided parenting techniques are applied and found wanting.
From hooligan golfer to drinks carrier, via wedding reception crooner and grown-bloke-back-at-school hijinks, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Saturday Night Live comedian Sandler's burst to box office heights is that it's all been done off the back of the same routine - a dysfunctional but lovable loser learns a few life lessons, gets the girl and saves whatever requires saving. But, hey, if it ain't broke...
Here's how the pertinent details bolt to formula this time around: professional layabout Sonny (Sandler) has reached the age of 32 without getting married or using his law school degree. In an ill-judged effort to impress his departing girlfriend, Vanessa (Kristy Swanson), Sonny reaches an agreement with his flatmate, Kevin (Stewart), to take custody of his illegitimate five-year-old son, Julian (played jointly by twins Cole and Dylan Sprouse). The (new) girl is snowed-under attorney, Layla (Adams). The lesson is taking responsibility for one's actions and in this case, that means Julian's childhood.
It's a sweet construct in which, as ever, the world is that safe, cartoonish version of reality - hurling logs in the path of speeding roller-bladers is satisfyingly amusing, while the American legal and social services systems seem to operate on a chaotically arbitrary and scarily trusting basis. But it manages to be quite consistently funny, with each juvenile gag balanced by the odd spark of wit and outrageousness - although a courtroom finale allowing Sandler and his writers to get their father-son relationship themes out of their systems, is predictably and excruciatingly hamfisted.
Kevin Smith fave Adams is delightful and should, with any luck, start swiping some decent roles back from Renee Zellweger after this; and on the cute kid(s) front, the Sprouse siblings manage quite a winning and irritation-free performance. But this, of course, is Sandler's show, once again held together by his curious yet addictive everyman charm: noisy, American loutishness played with just the right blend of vigour and humility.
Without being as polished a concept as The Wedding Singer, or touching the anarchic heights of Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy is evidence that - for the moment at least - this pony doesn't need a new trick.