PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Preston Blake, hoping to be a disc jockey as a young man, slowly worked his way up and founded Blake Media, a major corporation running hundreds of television and radio stations with 50,000 employees. After 82-year-old Blake freezes to death on the summit of Mount Everest with a triumphant smile on his face, a search for his heir begins.
It is found that Blake has a living nephew named Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler), who runs a pizzeria in New Hampshire and also writes greeting cards in the hopes that Hallmark may be interested in one. Deeds is contacted and brought to New York City by businessman Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher), who is temporarily in control of Blake Media. Plans are made for Deeds to sell his shares in the company to Cedar and return home $40 billion richer, but he must remain in New York for a few days while all the legal details are worked out.
The story is major news, and reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder), who works for a tabloid show called Inside Access, has a co-worker pretend to steal her purse in sight of Deeds, because their research indicated that Deeds wanted to meet a girl by “rescuing” her, the same way his father had met his mother. Deeds does so, and beats up her “robber”, and Babe goes out with him under the disguise of Pam Dawson, a school nurse from a made-up town called Winchestertonfieldville, Iowa (which later turns out to be a real town, which Babe is flabbergasted to find out).
Though Babe initially hopes to just get a good story on the new heir, she eventually falls for the unfailingly kind-hearted Deeds, and decides to tell him that she is not who she says she is, but Inside Access, in concert with Cedar (who was fed the truth by the fake robber and was smitten with Babe) reveals it to Deeds first. Heartbroken and upset, Deeds decides to return home to Mandrake Falls and makes plans to donate his $40 billion inheritance to the United Negro College Fund. After returning to Mandrake Falls, he learns from Crazy Eyes (Steve Buscemi) that Cedar intends to sell off the company, which will cause thousands of people to lose their jobs (Cedar had convinced Longfellow to sell his shares by lying that he will work commanding the company in honor of Preston’s lifetime of work). Babe follows Deeds to Mandrake Falls to win him back, but after saving her life when she falls through the ice over a lake, he rejects her, saying he does not really know who she is.
At a shareholders meeting, Cedar has everyone convinced to sell the company, until Deeds (who has bought a single share) arrives and manages to convince everyone not to sell. But Cedar claims control of a majority of the shares and the sale is approved. Bennett arrives and reveals that Blake’s butler, Emilio (John Turturro), is Preston Blake’s illegitimate son and the true heir as a result of a younger Preston having an amorous affair with his maid in 1958 (at one point he had told Deeds that Blake treated him “like a son”). Realizing Emilio is Longfellow’s cousin, Deeds convinces him they must stop Cedar and that he is the rightful CEO. As a result of Emilio supplanting Longfellow as the heir, Deeds’ sale of shares are retracted and Cedar is fired.
Emilio immediately takes control of Blake Media and fires Cedar. Babe then reconciles with and kisses Deeds after professing her love for him. As they leave the meeting, Emilio thanks Deeds for his support and offers him a billion dollars, some of which Deeds spends on red Corvettes for everyone in Mandrake Falls. When he returns to the pizzeria with Babe, he learns that Hallmark is interested in buying one of his greeting cards: the one he wrote for Babe when he professed his love for her. They both share a kiss as the movie ends with Crazy Eyes crashing his Corvette and coming out unharmed.
We’ve all met that one person that just seems to be “too good to be true”. Some of us may even be that person, as a matter of fact. Well, Mr. Deeds has Adam Sandler playing a character in that vein, rather than a manchild, but does it work?
What is this about?
After inheriting a media empire, humble Longfellow Deeds moves to the Big Apple — where a reporter and a company bigwig are waiting to pounce on him.
What did I like?
Different shade of Sandler. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the line people became divided on Adam Sandler and his movies. There are those like me who love them because they allow one’s brain to just turn off for a couple of hours and then there are those that want him to do more serious, thought-provoking stuff. Well, Longfellow Deeds appeals to both audiences, but the film itself seems to step more in line with what the latter group wants. Is this “different” Sandler good? I can’t really answer that question, but it is nice to see him do something a little more subdued that what we had been seeing from him up to this point.
Butler. John Turturro isn’t exactly known as a serious actor, but he also isn’t the first person you call when casting a comedy, either. As the butler in this film, I feel he really had a chance to shine, though. A character that has a long line of quirks, as well as a sense of loyalty typically found in butler characters, but not quite a sidekick, is what Deeds needed.
Tone. Aside from the film’s opening, which I will touch on shortly, this is a film that strikes a good balance of silly, drama, and a hint of romantic comedy. Who knew that Sandler was capable of making a film that could accomplish that, right? While I am a fan of the goofier moments, such as Sandler beating a guy nearly to death, or his frostbitten foot, I can understand why some prefer more subdued moments such as when Sandler is on a date with Wynona Ryder’s character.
What didn’t I like?
Attitude toward small town life. Being a military brat, I bounced around a lot growing up, but one of the places that I stayed the longest and have adopted as one of my hometowns (Ft. Worth will always be #1, though), is a small town, perhaps a bit bigger than the places in this film, but the same principles apply. For some reason, this film takes small town life and decides to skewer it. At first, I thought it was just a nice little joke and then we get to Ryder’s “hometown” and I don’t know something just didn’t feel right. Couple that with the way there was a constant reminder of how Sandler’s small town ways weren’t fitting in in the big city and I just wasn’t a fan. Surely they could have done better, right?
Dark beginning. For such a light film, this sure does start dark. Deeds’ great-uncle dies on the top of a mountain…on TV! In some ways, this was funny, but in another light, one has to wonder what kind of sick person would get their jollies off of seeing someone perish on a cold mountaintop. For me, while it set up the plot, it just seemed to be too much. There was just no need for us to see the man die, I’m sorry.
Remake. As has been stated by me many a time on this blog and other places, I hate remakes! There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. The Magnificent Seven, for instance, but that’s a one in a million film. I have not seen the original film that this was based on, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. However, when I do track it down, I get the impression that I will prefer it to this. Why? Well, the cast for one reason. Cary Grant vs. Adam Sandler…no contest, really. Seriously, I just wonder why this had to be a remake.
Final verdict on Mr. Deeds? When I look at the catalog of Sandler’s films, this actually does seem to be one of the better ones, but I think that has more to do with the source material now that I think about it. Also, while I’m thinking about it, how is it that Sandler gets these incredibly hot actresses to play his wife/girlfriend. Last night, I was flipping through and saw Just Go with It, where he was stuck between Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker. In other films, he has been with Salma Hayek, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and in this film, Wynona Ryder! What is the secret?!? Anyway, do I recommend this? Yes I do. The few issues that I have with this film are more personal qualms than bad filmmaking. Give this a shot! It may change your opinion on Adam Sandler.
4 out of 5 stars