Mr. Deeds

Mr. Deeds.
Happy Madison Productions 2002.

Before watching the movie:

I have the impression that this might be the last “good” Adam Sandler movie before he got lost making movies nobody wanted. I also felt like the title was a little disconnected from the kind of movies Sandler makes, and the character’s name being “Longfellow Deeds” really seemed removed from anything from the time. So I’m not surprised to learn that this is a remake of a movie from the 30s.

The comedy probably comes from putting the “regular guy” in the bizarre world of the mega rich, and especially because it’s a modernization of a much older story, I’m not sure there will be room for the kind of humor that Sandler’s worst movies over-rely on.

After watching the movie:

Preston Blake, a Richard Branson type, dies refusing to call off his Mount Everest climb for a little snowstorm, leaving the future of the Blake Communications media empire in question. Blake’s next of kin turns out to be Longfellow “Deeds” Deeds, a pizzeria owner, volunteer fire marshal, and general small-town gentleman from Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire. The Blake Communications business manager Chuck Cedar arranges to fly Deeds out to New York for a few days while the lawyers draw up the legal documents necessary to sell the controlling interest in the company to Cedar and put $40 billion in Deeds’s pocket, secretly plotting with the foreign investors to strip and shutter the company for profit. With all news outlets desperate for scoops on the new owner of the megacorporation, tabloid reporter Babe Bennett poses as “Pam Dawson”, small-town school nurse, to honeypot Deeds into giving her intimate access while she covertly films for Inside Access. However, while Deeds gets to know the town and the employees of Blake Communications, he starts to think that maybe he wants to stay involved with this company, especially if it lets him spend more time with his sweetheart Pam.

The style of the story reminds me a lot of Brewster’s Millions, the Richard Pryor version, as a modernized version of a very old “normal guy catapulted into the world of the super rich” story. But it also reminds me a lot of King Ralph, especially the mechanism by which the protagonist gets to go home to his old life in the end. It’s not very many times, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

I’m conflicted about the importance placed on how Preston Blake employed 50,000 people. While the point of bringing this up is to define the stakes of liquidating the company and demonstrate what a neighborly fellow like Deeds cares about, a cult of the Job Creator has developed in the last few decades that says that businesses should get to do whatever they want because they create jobs. It’s almost certainly not fair to hold that against this movie because Deeds actually does want to do the right thing by Blake’s employees, but it’s really not a good look to be basically praising a megacorporation for being large.

This is a nicely reserved comedy with heart that lets Sandler portray a caring and compassionate guy with emotion and sincerity. There are some wackier moments, but they are limited and generally don’t detract from the plot. It couldn’t be a Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore because it’s not an original story, but it’s definitely one of Adam Sandler’s best movies.

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