Mr. Deeds

2002, Movie, PG-13, 96 mins

Review

MR. DEEDS
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Coarse, insincere and defiantly stupid, Adam Sandler's populist comedy about a good-hearted country boy who gets dissed by city slickers and shows them up good is an insult to the just-plain-folks whose fundamental decency and common sense it purports to celebrate. If you love Sandler's particular brand of vulgar jokes, childish antics and smirking, aw-shucks posturing, there's no need to read any farther: This movie was tailor-made to fulfill your expectations. All others, take heed. Small-town pizza-shop owner and aspiring greeting-card writer Longfellow Deeds (Sandler) lives in tiny Mandrake Falls, NH, loved by all for his generosity, goofy sense of humor and self-effacing sweetness. More than anything, he wants to sell a sappy ditty to Hallmark, but so far his dismal doggerel has failed to impress the greeting card giant. When New York-based corporate sharks Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher) and Cecil Anderson (Erick Avari) blow into town with the news that he's just inherited $40 billion from an uncle he never knew existed, Deeds is unfazed — he's not materialistic or ambitious and, frankly, wouldn't mind if he never left Mandrake Falls. Cedar, who's been systematically defrauding the media empire Deeds' uncle founded, figures Deeds for an idiot and assumes it will be a cinch to get him to sell off his shares and leave Cedar free to plunder unchecked. Cedar's grand plan is to dismantle the company and sell off its assets, making himself and the shareholders rich while throwing tens of thousands of employees out of work. Meanwhile, tabloid TV reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) is under pressure to get the scoop on the mystery heir, which she does by pretending to be a mousey little school nurse and staging a mugging so Deeds can come to her rescue. Though Deeds is shrewder than he looks (a revelation that throws a spanner into Cedar's plans), he's completely taken in by Babe's act and falls head over heels in love with her. This is a terrible movie in its own right, tasteless and condescending — if Sandler's character is an Everyman, than the Everyman of today is a boorish jackass. But it's a remake of the sharp, surprisingly dark MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936), starring Gary Cooper and directed by Frank Capra (who, it bears repeating, was not the soft-centered sap many of today's superficially sophisticated filmmakers seem to think), and it only looks worse by comparison. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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