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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Happy Gilmore (HD DVD)
Happy Gilmore (HD DVD)
Universal // PG-13 // June 13, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 20, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Billy Madison did alright at the box office, but Happy Gilmore was the flick that turned Adam Sandler from hey-that-guy-from-Saturday-Night-Live-is-in-a-movie to a bankable star. Yeah, that means it put him on his way to getting $15 million paydays for gimmicky romantic comedies and anchoring movies around one of a couple of unlistenably grating voices for an hour and a half, but...hey, let's not dwell. Even though I'm not too keen on much of anything he's made since, Happy Gilmore's still a pretty decent comedy.

The plot's kinda incidental, but it goes something like this: Happy Gilmore (Sandler, as if you really need me to spell that out) is a failed wannabe-hockey player with a short fuse. His grandma and his hockey stick are the only things he really cherishes, and when the house that Happy's late grandfather built with his bare hands is snatched by the government 'cause of unpaid taxes, he's determined to do whatever it takes to get the money to...yeah, you can fill in the blanks. Anyway, even though he's a lousy hockey player, Happy has a mean slapshot, and he eventually clues in that he can whack a golf ball awfully far too. With the help of Chubbs (Carl Weathers, baby), an aging former golf star looking to vicariously recapture some of that duffer glory he missed out on after his hand was gnawed off by an alligator, Happy manages to snag a spot on the pro tour.

Even though he can drive a ball four or five hundred yards, Happy's short game is anemic, and his tendency to fling golf clubs, pummel everyone in sight, and burst into profanity-peppered twenty minute tirades on national TV doesn't exactly endear him to some of the stuffier set, especially scheming #1 ranked golfer Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald). Still, thanks to Happy, ratings are up, a younger crowd is showing up on the tour, and more youth-oriented sponsors have started whipping out their checkbooks. The tour's PR director (Julie Bowen) is intrigued by the possibilities that Happy could bring to the game, and so, the formula's set up. you have your underdog hero, some MacGuffin to push the plot forward, a love interest, a boo-hiss badnik, a big, climactic game that comes down to one or two shots: you know the drill.

Happy Gilmore is kind of sitcom-funny -- more jokes sputter and stall than actually get a laugh, but enough of 'em work that I still consider it a funny flick overall. Its sense of humor is a lot less "out there" than Billy Madison, but mixed in with all the dumb humor and the formulaic paint-by-numbers plot is a scoopful of that same sort of strangeness. Happy Gilmore's most infamous sequence is the slugfest with Bob Barker that was in so many of the TV spots and trailers that even if you've never seen the movie, you ought to know exactly what I'm talking about. Happy wrestles an alligator in the middle of a tournament. Abe Lincoln has an ethereal cameo. There's a dwarven cowboy on a tricycle. The total randomness of some of this stuff makes for the movie's best moments, but most of the comedy's still the familiar Sandler schtick, anchored around a violent, volatile man-child with a heart o' gold pumping underneath the psychosis.

Even though most of the characters hammer away at one note for 90 minutes straight, it still has a pretty decent supporting cast -- nursing home tyrant Ben Stiller, man-mountain Richard Kiel, Carl Weathers as the movie's resident Mickey Goldmill, Julie Bowen as a cute but not so Hollywood-unrealistically-unattainable love interest, and SCTV alum Joe Flaherty with a line reading of the word 'jackass' that deserves some kind of Congressional medal. Even ten years later, I still can't watch a movie with Christopher McDonald without thinking of Shooter McGavin.

If comedy were a chicken wing, Happy Gilmore would be the mild sauce: it's kinda filling, it tastes alright enough for me to keep munching away, and twenty minutes later, I've completely forgotten about it. Sure, it's kinda stupid, but Happy Gilmore is still funny enough that it's at least worth renting.

Video: Hey, 1.85:1. Don't see that on HD DVD too often. Anyway, this high-definition presentation of Happy Gilmore is kinda average, but "average" on HD DVD still passes for "pretty damn nice". The image is sharp 'n smooth, and with so much of the movie set on golf courses on bright, sunny days, the cinematography's cheery and colorful. The golf scenes also show off how much fine detail HD DVD can dish out; instead of the course looking like a giant green smear, it seems as if you can make out each and every individual blade of grass. I don't really have any gripes -- there's no artifacting, no nicks or speckles creep in, and only a couple of scattered shots don't match the quality of the rest of the film -- but the movie's visual style just doesn't lend itself to that same sort of "wow!" as so much of the other stuff released on HD DVD so far.

Audio: The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio is a straight-ahead comedy mix. The subwoofer kicks out a hefty wallop whenever Happy cold-cocks someone and when he's checking in the hockey try-outs, but other than that, it's dialogue front-and-center, next to nothing chirping from the surrounds, and music filling in the rest. Okay but completely unremarkable. Also included are a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 dub in French and a stereo Spanish track.

Supplements: Not much: just a standard issue blooper reel and twenty minutes of deleted scenes. Both are presented in a standard definition, letterboxed, rough cut format, and the quality is...well, pretty rough. Lousy looking or no, Ben Stiller fans might want to wade through it anyway 'cause a lot of the scenes with his disorderly (nyuk nyuk) wound up on the cutting room floor.

Conclusion: Sure, Happy Gilmore's a reasonably funny flick, but...$34.98? Yeah, I know no one ever actually pays the full list price, and Universal is dropping the sticker price by five bucks in August, but even $20-$25 is still an awful lot for a mid-level, decade-old catalog title with so few extras, especially when you can pick up the regular DVD for seven bucks and change. I like Happy Gilmore enough to slap it with a Recommended, but you're better off waiting for some enterprising store to invent the HD DVD bargain bin or opting for a rental instead.

Standard image disclaimer: the pictures scattered around this review were lifted from AllMoviePhoto.com and don't necessarily reflect the appearance of this HD DVD. Pictures make things pretty.
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