In this remake of Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, a simple guy from backwater USA finds himself the richest man in America overnight when he comes into a $40 billion inheritance. But can he hold onto it?
Blasphemer! How could Adam Sandler, of all people, remake Capra? Well, shoddily, as it happens. Either way, Capra fans shouldn't get their knickers in a twist, because Mr. Deeds bears little relation to the Gary Cooper classic - which, last time we checked, didn't have a scene in which a butler drives a poker through the eponymous hero's frost-bitten foot. Welcome to Sandlerworld.
Britain has never bought into Sandler, writing him off as an obnoxious, slapstick-obsessed lout. But in his better films - The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore - he aptly exploits the comic potential of rage. That, however, is Sandler at his best. At his worst, he can be leaden and uninteresting, and, sadly, that's the Adam Sandler who steps up to the plate here.
Mr. Deeds is intermittently very funny, mainly thanks to the supporting cast - including The Adam Sandler Travelling Repertory Company stalwarts Buscemi (whose "I love the Beach Boys" line is a prime contender for funniest line of the year, contextually of course), Turturro (the best thing in the movie by a country mile as Deeds' Spanish butler), Allen Covert and Rob Schneider - who work tirelessly for laughs.
But Sandler is on autopilot, his outbursts of rage kept to a minimum. There's no disguising that Mr. Deeds is a mere exercise in restoring Sandler's box office appeal, following the failure of Little Nicky (which, for all its faults, had ten times the verve on display here). And, though this worked in the US ($125 million at the box office), Sandler still looks shackled and distinctly uncomfortable as a romantic lead.
At least he's playing in a completely different league to Ryder, who sabotages any planned 'Winona steals the show' reviews with an astonishingly awful performance. She seems convinced that she's in an Oscar-class weepie, blubbing her heart out every five minutes.
From Capra to Crapra. There are a few hilarious moments here, but Sandler himself is responsible for precious few of them. He needs to ally himself with a top-class director and reinvigorate his career, ASAP. Someone like P. T. Anderson, perhaps?