April 24, 2014

Big Daddy


Dennis Dugan, 1999
Sonny Koufax is a law school graduate aiming low with a job at a New York City tollbooth. When a child belonging to his out-of-town roommate appears at his doorstep, he decides to use the opportunity of fatherhood to prove himself to some of the disappointed people in his life. 

Big Daddy represents a period in time where Adam Sandler was still using his creative energy to star in films that had a simple construct but delivered a fulfilling story. And although it's a flawed film, it sets you up, pulls you in, and leaves you quite satisfied after it's over. He is basically the same character in every film that he stars in. The lazy guy, who has a niche talent with a short temper and manages to overcome an obstacle and surprises everyone in the end. Oh yeah, and he always gets that girl that he didn't stand a chance with early on. Big Daddy is of course no different. In fact, the flaws in this film may be more frustrating than those in Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. Sonny and Kevin (John Stewart) manage to have this apartment that would likely cost upwards of $5000 a month. Kevin may be able to carry that weight, but he would likely not be willing to carry his college buddy who only can offer a simple tollbooth income. Well, maybe he's the nicest most generous college buddy in the world. Then there's the social worker Arthur Brooks, played by the great Sandler-centric Josh Mostel. Arthur is a bit too facilitating, simply agreeing on a handshake to quietly set up a family for Julian while he can play Dad for a few weeks. Sonny is also this lawyer in hiding who his working friends ask for legal advice at cocktail parties and he seems to know of the one case that they didn't. And there's the bad acting by Julian, played by the McGrath twins. Perhaps it's unfair to judge them harshly. They are kids.

With all the flaws, there is still something not only entertaining but endearing about this film. You like Julian. You're rooting for Sunny. You want to see it work out. If the film was that bad, you wouldn't give a shit. Perhaps that's the saving grace. The one redeeming element. You want Sonny to have this sudden successful evolution. This life-changing, maturity-forcing break. It's one of the last good films for Sandler. After this he seemed to devolve even further, although he ironically went on to deliver the best performance of his career in Punch Drunk Love (of course with the best direction of his career). Real-life fatherhood seemed to change Sandler. He continued to linger on that whole not horrible film, but not really that great trend for a few more films (50 First Dates, Click, Mr. Deeds). But then it really went south. Luckily, some of these not-so-bad films are preserved. At least we can file this one under Guilty Pleasures. 

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