Good Deeds Punished
Patient: Mr. Deeds
Profile: A vacant lot of a movie based on Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.The Capra populist classic has been set upon by the Adam Sandler crew, who, as usual, shoot for the lowest common denominator sans the common denominator and come up with, as usual, a film weak on laughs, tension, logic or acting. John Turturro and Steve Buscemi co-star as two guys providing for early retirement. Think Mr. Deeds Goes to Town meets Mr. Capra Goes Round and Round meets Mr. Sandler Goes to Hell and Makes a Deal.
The Script Doctor
Symptoms: I wanted to hate this movie, but the filmmakers never gave me a chance. They barely gave me a movie. Mr. Deeds is so lacking in story, energy and ideas that they had to pad it to get it to 90 minutes: cue five-minute out-of-the-blue girl fight! Standby cat-tossing bit lifted from The Jerk and wacky tennis scene plucked from Bachelor Party! Given three of the most hateful groups to skewer—corporate bigwigs, TV tabloid reporters, Australians—they can't draw blood because those characters are written so broadly they practically leer into the camera while twisting their handlebar mustaches. Even the good guys don't seem that good. This is supposed to be a movie about the lamb laying down with the lion—Capra believed in the intrinsic strength of the lamb—but Sandler's lambs apparently didn't get enough oxygen at birth since the small-town innocents come off not so much as innocent as the type of borderline retards who plunk down good money to see an Adam Sandler movie.
Diagnosis: Mr. Deeds has all the wit, wisdom and fluidity of a Bob Hope Special—or a Bob Hope lung. Take your pick. Prescription: Your problem is your villains. They're far too villainous. It's okay to have Deeds as an Everyman, standing in for our view of ourselves, but the movie will have more energy if those who would use and abuse him are much harder to detect. He should be seduced by the corporate forces as we all are. We recognize that struggle; we would worry for his safety and his soul. You might take a cue from another Capra classic, Meet John Doe, in which another innocent is used by a fascist who, until the end, seems reasonable. What gives that movie its tension, and therefore its comic relief and its humanity, is that we can see clearly how anyone could be seduced—and is everyday. A world that colors anyone who says no to money naive could really use a good update of Deeds; a movie about the meek inheriting the earth—and sharing it—a movie about saying no to the corporate siren call. Unfortunately, the one we got was done by the guy who said yes to Big Daddy . . . and Billy Madison . . . and Happy Gilmore . . . and Little Nicky . . . and . . .
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