The Good: Funny, Quirky, Surprisingly well-written, Decent acting
The Bad: Somewhat predictable plot, Standard setup
The Basics: A surprisingly decent Adam Sandler film that actually makes the audience laugh, Mr. Deeds forces us to ask “What is the world coming to?!”
Every once in a while, I decide it is time to even out the old bell curve of my ratings. Because I didn't want to completely waste my time, I got out A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (reviewed here!) with Mr. Deeds, which was the DVD I figured I would not enjoy. Who would have guessed that I would have found Mr. Deeds to be the superior movie? Those readers of my reviews will know that I usually rate comedies fairly poorly as they do not stand up well over repeated viewings. Mr. Deeds seems to be an exception to that.
When Preston Blake dies, his multi-billion dollar corporation looks for any heir to his empire. They find Longfellow Deeds, a laid back pizza delivery guy who seems to enjoy his simple life in a small town in New England. Cecil, the company's chief counsel, and Chuck Cedar, the company's CEO, hunt Deeds down and bring him back to New York. There, Deeds is taken in by investigative reporter Babe Bennett, who needs a story before she gets fired. Deeds falls in love with Babe, who has been lying to him all along about who she really is. While Chuck works to swindle Deeds out of his stock, Deeds begins to figure out that being a part of this particular company is pretty decent.
What Mr. Deeds lacks in original plot material, it more than makes up for with humorous characters and a rather unique use of an assortment of character actors. The movie almost immediately establishes itself as something different with a quirky use of dialog between Cecil and Murph, Deeds' best friend. When Cecil arrives in Deeds' hometown, the exchange between him and Murph is quick, funny and utterly disarming. Prior to that, the movie is just a bunch of stupid jokes that are obvious and simple. But with that one exchange of dialog, the viewer is sucked in to a movie we know is going to be a bit different.
The differences do not come in the form of the plot. This is the most hackneyed, obvious, overdone Hollywood plot there is. After all, we could probably name fifteen movies and/or episodes of television shows wherein the protagonist suddenly is bequeathed lots of money and has a decision to make about it while those around him (or her) manipulate them or attempt to get their money. It's a standard plot. The originality of Mr. Deeds is not in that element.
What Mr. Deeds does is it takes the standard and plays with it, populating it with some weird characters. Deeds himself is happy-go-lucky and simple, often ending up as the butt of other people's jokes. Babe, the reporter investigating him, is a compulsive liar who pulls all of her lies out of To Kill A Mockingbird. Cecil is an eccentric lawyer who does more than deadpans, he actually connects with Deeds and plays into his simpleton joy. Deeds new housekeeper, Emilio, seems to move at the speed of light and is a wonderful straightman. All through the movie, there are weird characters that seem to defy our expectations for what characters in this situation would do. And some of the cameos are wonderful, including John McEnroe playing a raging version of himself.
But what makes Mr. Deeds even funnier is the use of the actors. Adam Sandler is surprisingly good as Longfellow Deeds and he plays Deeds with more understatement than he does in most of his other movies. Gone is the mumbling sketch comedian that Sandler uses in far too many of his other, less worthwhile movies. Here, he stretches his creative wings and he rewards the audience with a different type of comedic performance than his usual portrayal which is almost completely derived from his Saturday Night Live routines. Still, he has not completely done away with that person and his little violent side makes its usual appearance in this piece.
John Turturro is great as the speedy butler Emilio. He gives a great comedic performance that is very different from his incomprehensible character in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, his manic protagonist in The Luzhin Defense, and his driven family man who is the backbone of Cradle Will Rock. Instead, here he plays a muted character who has presence only in the movie's climax and then never stealing the scenes from Sandler's Deeds.
The person who does steal the movie is Eric Avari, who plays Cecil. Avari, who might be best known to mass audiences as Elektra's father in Daredevil (reviewed here!), is an unlikely candidate for comedy and then he has the dignity and bearing for a sidekick, a straightman whose straightlaced nature plays off the wackiness of those around him. It is therefore, casting genius that Avari is used as a quirky, funny, emotive character. Avari's character flirts, joins in singing a David Bowie song and has a love of Wendy's frosty's. He plays the part expertly, using his facial expressions to twist a joke even further. He makes the movie even more interesting than Sandler.
I went into Mr. Deeds expecting to not enjoy it and instead, I found a movie I was consistently laughing at. It was funny. And it held up as funny when I watched it a second time. It's not Monty Python's Flying Circus or Kids In The Hall, but it is funny and it is worth a viewing when you're in the mood for a laugh.
For other films with John Turturro, please visit my reviews of:
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
The Luzhin Defence
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Cradle Will Rock
For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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