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Movie Review

A remake of Frank Capra’s 1936 Oscar-winner Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, this occasionally sweet-spirited, yet often profane adaptation thrusts a selfless, small-town guy into the lifestyle of the rich and famous—including the vicious world of corporate takeovers and tabloid TV. The story begins when naïve pizza parlor owner Longfellow Deeds learns that he has just inherited $40 billion from a media mogul great-uncle he never knew. Big shots from his uncle’s corporation, including the devious Chuck Cedar, whisk Deeds off to New York City secretly hoping he’ll sign over his controlling interest so that they can dismantle the organization and line their pockets at the expense of countless employees. Meanwhile, Deeds is in the crosshairs of Inside Access, a sensationalistic TV news program. Desperate for a story, one of the show’s reporters poses as virginal school nurse Pam Dawson in a plot to get close to Deeds and covertly film his activities. Her deception is costly in the short run, but the couple develops a genuine affection that leads to true love.

positive elements: Sandler is immediately likable as Deeds. The guy is a model citizen. A boy scout. He’s thoughtful, forgiving, patient and kind. His town loves him. He makes friends wherever he goes. He’s free with hugs, and intolerant of men who use profanity in the presence of ladies. When he learns about his uncle’s existence and death, Deeds doesn’t think to ask about any inheritance, but is sincerely saddened by the loss and offers to help however he can. Instead of parlaying his new fortune into a playboy lifestyle, this hopeless romantic says, "I don’t want to meet a girl just ‘cause I’m wicked rich." He rescues Pam from a "mugger" (actually a coworker of hers who’s involved in a set-up) and treats her with respect. When Deeds meets his servants, he doesn’t treat them as such, but as equals ("I don’t want a servant, but if you wanna be my friend, I’ll take that"). He gives money and other valuables to strangers, and invites a homeless man to stop in any time to use the bathroom. He races into a burning building to rescue a woman and her seven cats. A friend back home encourages Deeds, telling him not to stoop to the level of those trying to take advantage of him. Kids are advised to stay in school. Pam realizes the error of her ways and puts everything on the line to reconnect with the man she loves. Instead of leading Pam and Deeds into bed, the film avoids sexual conduct and points to marriage as the more noble conquest. The climactic scene condemns greed and urges people to recapture the dreams of their youth.

spiritual content: A church funeral for Deeds’ uncle features a squishy, feel-good bon voyage by Al Sharpton who says the deceased is "soaring with eagles" because he was "a good guy." Deeds talks about drinking beer while hanging out in heaven with his uncle.

sexual content: No activity, but there’s crass sexual dialogue and innuendo. It’s implied that Pam is promiscuous. Emilio talks of being a foot fetishist. A man is shown naked from the rear in a shower. Several of Pam’s outfits reveal cleavage. After jumping from a burning building, Deeds lands on a woman in a compromising sexual position. A man claims to have made his fortune operating a pornographic Web site (the film doesn’t strongly condemn the practice). A couple is shown freak dancing. A man is overcome with lust for his maid, who doesn’t resist his advances (sex is implied).

violent content: An 82-year-old man freezes to death on a mountaintop. During a tennis match, misguided shots pummel the ball boy, knock a bystander over a hedge, and cream Chuck in the head, chest and throat. Deeds chases a mugger and proceeds to pound the daylights out of him. After being verbally abused by high-society snobs, he retaliates by beating them all up. He warns a pushy jock to watch his language, and when the guy readies another foul remark, Deeds decks him before he has the chance to spit it out. Later the jock’s dad removes his belt and prepares to give his grown son a whipping. Chuck says of someone, "He deserves to get his throat cut." Pam and another woman go toe-to-toe in an all-out brawl (kicks, punches, body slams, broken furniture, etc.). Deeds encourages Emilio to whale on his frostbitten foot with a fireplace poker, which he does.

crude or profane language: Crude sexual comments and anatomical slang, some more subtle than others. The script resorts to 30-plus profanities including over a dozen s-words. Twice, people make their point with an extended middle finger. The Lord's name is abused about a dozen times.

drug and alcohol content: Alcohol is a significant issue. Not only is it consumed in various settings, but characters make remarks that esteem beer quite highly. An aspiring greeting card writer, Deeds pens a line about drinking lots of brew. Another rhyme ends "buy us all a shot." At his uncle’s funeral, Deeds recites a poem that ends with his desire to spend time in heaven getting to know the man, at which time they’ll be "hangin’ at the pearly gates, and I’ll bring the beers." Pam lies about not drinking alcohol as she takes a swig of Budweiser. Deeds gets drunk and smokes cigars with tennis great John McEnroe, leading to a mammoth hangover the next morning. He fondly recalls his friends back home doing crazy things "when they’re wasted." Chuck asks a man of questionable sanity, "What do you have in that pipe, hashish?"

other negative elements: Deeds and John McEnroe get cheap thrills by egging cars.

conclusion: It would be easy to criticize this film on any number of levels. (Note to aspiring filmmakers: When Styrofoam snow floats in water, it ceases to look like snow and simply looks like wet Styrofoam.) But what stuck with me most was how Sandler and company took a good-natured premise and one of the nicest characters this actor/comedian has ever played and drove both into the ground. It’s as if the first 20 minutes were too much decency for the filmmakers to take, so they backloaded the picture with as much crass, MTV-style humor as possible to compensate for the wholesome set-up. The movie had me rooting for it early, then cursed me for caring. That’s not nearly as forgivable as fake snow.

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Profanity/Violence

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Credits

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Cast

Adam Sandler as Longfellow Deeds; Winona Ryder as Pam Dawson; John Turturro as Emilio; Peter Gallagher as Chuck Cedar; Jared Harris as Mac; Allen Covert as Marty; Erick Avari as Cecil; Steve Buscemi as Crazy Eyes

Director

Steven Brill ( )

Distributor

New Line Cinema

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On Video

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Reviewer

Bob Smithouser