Mr Deeds (12A)

Review by Jack Foley

ADAM Sandler is a comedian in dire need of a new persona. When he’s not playing the appealing, everyday under-achiever who triumphs against adversity in films such as The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy, he is playing the quavery-voiced under-achiever, who does pretty much the same thing, in movies such as The Waterboy and Little Nicky.

The best that can be said for him is that the former persona is, at least, watchable; while the latter ought to have people running a mile from the Box Office for fear of being insulted. Maybe his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Punch-Drunk Love will change all this.

In the meantime, however, we have Mr Deeds, a remake of Frank Capra’s 1936 comedy, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, which finds Sandler playing a smalltown guy with a big heart, Longfellow Deeds, who suddenly inherits a $40 billion fortune and moves to New York in order to become manipulated by some greedy opportunists with their eye on his cash.

Once in the Big Apple, this fish out of water quickly finds himself embarking on a relationship with Winona Ryder’s deceptive reporter, falling victim to the devious manipulations of Peter Gallagher’s profit-hungry mogul and inspiring the loyalty of his father’s long-suffering servant, Emilio, played with relish by the excellent John Turturro.

Yet try as it might to appear feelgood and heart-warming, Mr Deeds frequently feels laboured and unfunny, playing to the lowest common denominator and seeming content to merely dumb down its Capra-esque leanings.

Sandler’s Mr Deeds lacks the charisma of Gary Cooper (who starred in the original), while his attempts to realise his ambition of writing greetings cards (‘My heart goes out to you, You’re the reason I’m alive, Without you I’m afraid, My life would take a wicked nosedive’) bear all the cringe-inducing hallmarks of Ricky Gervais’ manager in The Office, without any of the finesse.

His relationship with Ryder’s ditsy Babe Bennett fails to generate any chemistry, while too many of the support players conform to cliché, serving only to put a strain on proceedings - Jared Harris’ Mac McGrath is particularly painful throughout.

Sandler should also be criticised for relying too strongly on his own tried and tested formula, reverting back to creations such as Happy Gilmore (ie, punching people when he loses his temper,) or The Wedding Singer, for endearing goofiness, when generating the laughs.

In fact, the movie’s biggest saving grace is the presence of Turturro’s ‘sneaky’ man servant, Emilio, who has a fetish for feet and who truly enlivens proceedings whenever he is around. The actor brings so much charisma to the role that he almost makes up for the movie’s glaring failings but, alas, his screen-time is too limited and Mr Deeds feels empty without him.