There was a point where I actually found Adam Sandler very entertaining. I still do like the first two of his films - "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison". Ever since those two films, Sandler has been bouncing back and forth between trying to be a bit more of an actor and silly humor that never quite reached the heights of his first two pictures. Two of his films - the ridiculously sappy "Big Daddy" and the unfunny disaster that was "Little Nicky" were, in my opinion, nearly unwatchable.
After a marathon's worth of going in the wrong direction, "Mr. Deeds" is a step forward, if still not particularly funny. An update of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", this picture stars Sandler as Longfellow Deeds, a small-town pizza shop owner who finds out one day that his distant uncle has just passed away trying to climb Mt. Everest. Deeds, being the nearest relative, gets the uncle's $40 billion dollar fortune. All he has to do is sell off his shares of stock to Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher), who is actually planning to break up the company and sell it off.
Strolling through the big city, Deeds comes upon, Pam Dawson (Winona Ryder), who is getting mugged when Deeds steps in. After his rescue, Deeds asks her out for dinner. What he doesn't know is that Pam Dawson is actually Babe Bennett, a reporter from a tabloid news program, trying to dig up dirt on Deeds. Of course, she falls for the guy, but by the time she does, he's found out the truth about her.
To say that "Mr. Deeds" starts off poorly is being kind. The first 20 minutes are nearly disasterous, as the Everest opening isn't amusing. When we first meet Deeds, he's working on writing greeting cards, which he reads to his customers each week. None of the cards that he reads during the picture (he writes several) are the least bit funny, nor are they so bad they're funny. The scenes just sit there, desperately seeking a laugh they aren't going to get. Thankfully, the film finally starts to sort of find its footing once Deeds finds out that he's now a billionaire. Most of the mildly amusing stuff has already been viewed by those who have spotted the trailer on TV, but there are a couple of bits that got a laugh out of me - Deeds stops the private jet in a parking lot on the way to the big city for burgers and fries, for example. A random meeting with John McEnroe where Deeds and the tennis star egg cars is fairly silly. Suprisingly, Sandler lets John Tuturro, who plays Deeds' butler, steal several scenes.
I definitely won't discuss Winona Ryder's current troubles in this review, but I will discuss my displeasure with her in this role. She's a very talented actress, but it's apparent from her first scenes in "Mr. Deeds" that she's been severely miscast here. She's not particularly funny and she often seems uncomfortable in the movie. To top it off, Ryder and Sandler have zero chemistry, making all of their scenes very unconvincing.
Maybe it'll be good for Sandler to leave behind frequent collaborators Tim Herlihy and Steven Brill for a little while - Sandler's next release is director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights", "Magnolia")'s "Punch-Drunk Love", which will be Sandler's real attempt to prove whether or not he can be an actor. There's also the animated "8 Crazy Nights". Essentially, Sandler needs something new, something fresh. While "Deeds" isn't as bad as the past couple of films from the actor, it's still too much of the same.