Billy Madison

1995, Movie, PG-13, 89 mins

Review

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BILLY MADISON is an unfunny farce about a slacker who repeats all 12 school grades to prove he is worthy of taking over the family business.

Billy Madison (Adam Sandler) is a spoiled rich kid in his mid-20s who whiles away his days getting drunk by the pool, perusing porn, and chasing an imaginary giant penguin. When his father (Darren McGavin) announces his intention to turn over control of the family's Fortune 500 hotel chain to company VP Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford), Madison junior protests. He hates and distrusts Gordon, but the father knows his son is a fool. To prove him wrong, Madison agrees to repeat grades 1 to 12 in six months. If successful, he gets the business.

Madison goes through the first two grades easily, but meets his first obstacle in the third grade in the person of Veronica Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson), a gorgeous teacher of Madison's age, who has no patience for his antics. Madison eventually wins her over, then sails through grades 4 to 8 in a montage. When he reaches high school, Gordon, nervous about losing the company, blackmails the principal (Josh Mostel) into claiming that Madison paid him to pass him. Madison's father calls off the deal; but urged on by Vaughn's unfailing faith, Madison decides to challenge Gordon to an academic decathlon. The winner gets the company. Madison wins, and at his graduation announces how much he now values education, and that he plans to attend college and turn the hotel business over to a deserving, long-time employee.

In his stand-up work and on "Saturday Night Live," Adam Sandler has a mischievous, "look at me" performance quality that bespeaks his self-image as a glorified class clown. So this role would seem the perfect vehicle for him to display his talents, and he brings to it his full arsenal of weird voices and goony faces. Except, class clowns are always only sporadically funny and their prolonged antics pall easily.

BILLY MADISON has its moments, mostly courtesy of TOMMY BOY star Chris Farley's cameos as the demented bus driver, but these are few and far between. The film should have featured more absurd and nonsensical elements. Certainly the plot is ridiculous, and so completely illogical that to see it fall by the wayside in favor of some inspired lunacy would not have been a loss. The movie does have a production number, and it could have used a few more of the goofy songs that are Sandler's trademark. (Profanity.) leave a comment

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