On its 20th anniversary, Adam Sandler’s finest film gets the re-release treatment. Yes, forget the formulaic, often-unfunny Sandler efforts of the past decade or so, this is the comedian at his very best as he delivers a modern comic classic. For those only familiar with Sandler’s recent work, it really is hard to explain how much of a breath of fresh air his earlier efforts were.
Plot-wise, Happy Gilmore sees Sandler playing the titular Happy, a hair-trigger-tempered everyman (and former wannabe hockey player) who just so happens to have a natural ability when it comes to striking a golf ball, even if golf is a sport that he has no particular affinity towards. Whilst Happy has his problems with the stuffy, formal attitude of those so synonymous with the game of golf, he sees golf tournaments as a way to help out his old grandma (Frances Bay) financially. In amongst the problems for Sandler’s Gilmore is the fact that his anger-driven style of golf is great for the long drives but awful for the careful putts. Needing to channel his anger, Happy turns to the legendary Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers) for advice and guidance. And whilst all of this is going on, a rival soon emerges in the flamboyant, cocksure asshat known as Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), whilst love also looms large for Happy in the form of reporter Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen).
To be fair, Happy Gilmore is a film that if you hated it then, you’ll hate it now. Luckily for us, we adored Sandler’s 1996 movie upon its initial release and still do to this day. This is a stupid, crass, over-the-top, logic-defying movie… but it’s downright stupidity and extravagance are also what makes Dennis Dugan’s film work so wonderfully well. At the core of the story, as with near-enough 95% of Sandler vehicles, is a love story in which the comedian’s manchild character battles against his own issues and those around him in order to come out of the whole thing with the dream girl on his arm. But whilst Sandler’s Happy is laugh-out-loud funny (yes, I’m still talking about that Adam Sandler), praise also has to go to Christopher McDonald’s villainous Shooter McGavin, with McDonald devouring any and all scenes that he’s in and proving himself to be a thorough bastard of the highest order. Oh, and then there’s that fight scene with Bob Barker, the brilliantly-placed cameo of Richard Kiel (Bond’s Jaws), and a whole host of familiar Sandler tropes that were still being delivered in a way that made them fresh, funny, and must-see.
Whether Happy Gilmore will work on a new audience who are tainted by some of Sandler’s more recent efforts is a big question here, but for this writer, as somebody who couldn’t get enough of the likes of Billy Madison, The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore remains one of the best balls-out over-the-top comedies of the last 20 years, crammed full of classic comedy moments and instantly-quotable dialogue. Sure, you may need to leave your brain at the door for this one, but sometimes that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
HAPPY GILMORE / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: DENNIS DUGAN / SCREENPLAY: TIM HERLIHY, ADAM SANDLER / STARRING: ADAM SANDLER, CHRISTOPHER MCDONALD, JULIE BOWEN, CARL WEATHERS, FRANCES BAY, ALLEN COVERT / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 29TH