- Jul 6, 2003
The Happy Gilmore / Billy Madison DVD Collection
Year: 1995 (BM) / 1996 (HG)
Running Time: 90 minutes (BM) / 92 minutes (HG)
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: French, and Spanish
Audio: English – Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1; French and Spanish – Dolby Digital (2.0)
November 30th, 2004
HAPPY GILMORE (1996): SPECIAL EDITION
Before I write another word, I want to set the record straight – yes I realize that Happy Gilmore is a silly, or even somewhat “stupid”, film. Moreover, I also know that if you do not like Adam Sandler’s brand of comedy, it is not a film that will cause you to change your mind about him. That being said, if you can get past those things it is also one hell of an enjoyable flick, with some terrific out-of-character performances by Carl Weathers and Bob Barker, among others!
Basically, the story goes like this…since he was just a young pup, Happy Gilmore (Sandler) dreamed of being a professional hockey player. As it turns out, Happy has great intensity, and an absolutely wicked slap shot, but his lack of skating ability and penchant for punching people in the face have always left him off of team rosters when the final cuts are made. Unfortunately, Happy could never let go of his dream, and in focusing all of his energy on trying to make a hockey team, he is not exactly going places when we meet him.
In fact, early into the film, his girlfriend gets tired of the fact he is going nowhere fast, and drops him like a bad habit. Things soon go from bad to worse the very next morning, as Happy discovers that his dear grandmother (Frances Bay) owes the IRS over $270,000 in back taxes, and is due to have her home and possessions seized and sold at auction.
At this point, fate (and two lazy movers) intervenes, helping Happy make an amazing discovery - his awesome slap shot also gives him the freakish ability to drive a golf ball over 400 yards! To try and help out his dear old granny, Happy begins working over suckers on the driving range. In the meantime, grandma ends up in a retirement community where the elderly are forced to work like slaves by a maniacal nurse (Ben Stiller)!
Later, after former pro-golfer (and now one-handed club pro) Chubbs Petersen (Carl Weathers) begins helping Happy develop the rest of his game, he joins the PGA Tour. Although Chubbs cautions Happy against rushing out to make a quick buck, Happy believes joining the tour might give him a chance to make enough dough to buy back his grandparents’ home and get grandma out of the retirement community. Unfortunately, to do so, Happy has to confront the tour’s current superstar, Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), who will do just about anything to keep the longball-hitting, volatile-tempered Happy Gilmore from stealing his thunder.
Initially, Happy’s behavior almost gets him booted from the tour, but the fans love him, so his behavior is overlooked…by everyone but Shooter McGavin. However, after Happy meets the attractive PGA Tour Public Relations Director, Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen), he begins to make an effort to change. To be more descriptive, Happy develops a real liking for the lovely Virginia, and when his antics threaten her job, he is forced to behave more like a normal, civilized human being than a foul-mouthed hooligan. Shooter, who is furious Happy is still on the tour, makes a last ditch effort to get under Happy’s skin by hitting Happy close to home. Will Happy succumb to the pressure, or will he stand firm and display his true talent and character by rising up and beating Shooter McGavin at his own game? Watch and see…
Well, right about now, you may be thinking, “This theme of an oddball struggling to change his ways, help his family, and win a woman’s heart doesn’t sound much different than other Sandler films like Big Daddy, Billy Madison, or The Waterboy.” If so, then you would be right. Somehow, although Happy Gilmore is not much different, and no less “stupid”, it is funnier and more enjoyable than most of his earlier releases (with the exception of Billy Madison). Perhaps this is due to the campy, uncharacteristic performances turned in by the supporting players, including Carl Weathers, Bob Barker, and the brilliant Christopher McDonald, who steals just about every scene he appears in!
As is the case with much of Sandler’s early works, some of the comedy is a little bizarre, including dancing midgets and an elderly woman wearing a latex mask of one of the members of KISS. That being said, many more gags and jokes hit than miss, and the film is a plain good time/guilty pleasure! Grip it and rip it Happy!!!
BILLY MADISON (1995): SPECIAL EDITION
Billy Madison, the first feature film headlined by Adam Sandler, is one heck of an introduction to his demented world. The film starts off with a scene featuring the spoiled, lazy title character (Sandler) pissing his life away swimming, chasing a huge invisible penguin, and perusing an odd assortment of porno magazines. Shortly thereafter, Billy orchestrates a battle between shampoo and conditioner, and completely humiliates his father, Brian Madison (Darren McGavin), at an important dinner by speaking gibberish and acting like a total moron.
It probably shouldn’t have taken Brian so long, but at this point, the elder Madison finally comes to the realization that he cannot possibly leave his massive hotel chain, and its 61,000 employees, in the hands of such a buffoon. Instead, the company will be turned over to an executive named Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford), an unethical weasel consumed by the thought of running the show.
Strangely, even though he would be able to continue his carefree lifestyle that way, Billy seems dismayed by his father’s decision, and suddenly shows an interest in running the multi-million dollar corporation. After a short discussion, Mr. Madison tells Billy that the only reason he even graduated high school was that the school was paid to pass him, in hopes he would find his way later on. At this point, a light bulb goes off in Billy’s head, and he asks his father to reconsider giving him the company if he can return to school and finish grades 1 through 12 in 24 weeks (two weeks each). Perhaps because there would be no film otherwise, Billy’s father agrees to this crazy contest, and the man-child is on his way back to the classroom!
Initially, things go well for Billy in his return to elementary school. To be more specific, he trounces kids in spelling bees, is great at dodge ball, and slowly wins the heart of his lovely third grade teacher, Ms. Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson), who was angry at Billy’s return to school until she got to really know him. Unfortunately, as Billy begins moving through grades, the unscrupulous Eric starts to show concern that the younger Madison’s insane idea might actually work. As such, Eric begins hatching his own plot - to halt Billy’s progress, so that he can assume control of Madison Hotels. As Eric interferes and the curriculum gets progressively more difficult, will Billy succeed or succumb to the pressure?
As was the case with the later film, Happy Gimore, and most of Sandler’s other early films, Billy Madison is a bit “stupid”, consisting of a fairly thin plot that strings together the conglomeration of bizarre gags, and set pieces. A couple of the gags, particularly the invisible penguin and the “Sloppy Joe” lady in the school cafeteria also fall flat. That being said, I think more of the comedy hits than misses, and that Billy Madison is so good-natured, charming, and freewheeling in its approach to generating laughs that it ultimately succeeds as entertainment.
Moreover, while the story in Billy Madison is utterly ridiculous, it was probably the perfect vehicle for Adam Sandler to bring his brand of humor to the big screen. Indeed, as Mr. Sandler participated in writing the script, it is laden with silliness, and eccentricities that are straight from the Saturday Night Live alumnus’ warped mind. Therefore, although the film is fairly formulaic, there are plenty of strange, amusing, and effective tangents sprinkled throughout, as well as bizarre scenes that do not move the narrative forward at all, and exist merely to get a laugh.
In terms of performances, Adam Sandler is actually decent in the title role, and with the exception of a couple of kids that are somewhat wooden, the rest of the cast really shines. Indeed, each of the principal characters in the film is given an opportunity to take the spotlight for a moment, even some of the actors who make notable cameo appearances (I’ll get to them in a second). The standouts include Bradley Whitford, who really knocked it out of the park as Eric, the unethical businessman seeking to gain control of Madison hotels. He made Eric a really hated character, someone you want to see fail, and that is always the mark of a great villain. Similarly, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras and Darren McGavin turned in strong performances as Billy’s girlfriend and father, respectively. This is particularly true of Wilson-Sampras’ energetic, physical (she kicks Billy’s ass!) turn as Veronica Vaughn, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Remember those cameos I mentioned? Well, the cast is rounded out by Norm MacDonald, Steve Buscemi, the energetic (and tragically late) Chris Farley, and the “O’Doyles”, each of which has some good scenes in their brief appearances. I would also be remiss not to mention Josh Mostel, who does fine work as Principal Anderson / The Revolting Blob! Hopefully for Billy, he is no longer horny!
In closing, it is almost a certainty that viewers who generally find Adam Sandler irritating will find him no less irritating in Billy Madison, and the material to be just as immature as his other work. What can you say though? This was an early Sandler film, and the man was catering to his core audience. That being said, even if you remain unimpressed by Sandler, I think the charm and creativity exhibited throughout this unconventional comedy make it worthy of a look.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Both of these Adam Sandler classics are presented in their original aspect ratio (1.85:1), anamorphically enhanced for widescreen displays. This is a first for Happy Gilmore, which was previously released only in the dreaded “Full Screen”! Although I hated to do it, I like Happy Gilmore so much I bought it that way…but please don’t tell anyone!
Getting down to business, the image quality on each disc is very good! To begin with, there are no signs of compression artifacts, edge enhancement, or video noise. Colors are also well drawn, exhibiting vibrancy, accuracy, and consistency, marred only by a very, very slight amount of bleeding. The classrooms and brightly colored clothing in Billy Madison and the outdoor scenes on the lush, green golf courses in Happy Gilmore look particularly wonderful!
Whites are clean and pure as well, and blacks are just as deep and rich, giving the films tangible depth and good shadow detail, even though most scenes are quite well lit. Both transfers are also brimming with fine detail, which is evident in the tangible texture of the characters’ clothing and hair, and even the background of many shots.
All in all, I am extremely pleased with the video quality of both Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, even though nothing appears to have been done to further enhance Billy Madison, which already had a fine transfer. Better still, Sandler fans can finally enjoy Happy Gilmore in its original aspect ratio! Good job Universal!!!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
The previous DVD releases of these films were not very trying on surround systems, and despite the inclusion of DTS soundtracks, the new releases are not either. Quite simply, the reason for this is that these are dialogue heavy comedies, with the most dynamic portion of them being the sourced music. However, dialogue is rooted in the center and delivered crisply, and the classic rock tunes present throughout these films sound quite good.
In terms of rear channel use, there is precious little, and for the most part, they really sound more like stereo mixes, including the aforementioned rock tinged soundtracks. For instance, during Billy Madison the only times I noticed the surrounds at all were during the musical number and the classic rock tune that is played as the end credits begin rolling.
Similarly, in Happy Gilmore the center channel does most of the heavy lifting, and the surrounds are used almost exclusively to give listeners a sense of how hard Happy can hit a golf ball. I was mildly disappointed with both mixes in one respect though – the surrounds do a fairly poor job of placing the listener in the midst of a crowd, such as when Happy Gilmore is out on the links, or when students surround Billy Madison during his journey through grades 1-12.
The subwoofer is employed in a similarly conservative fashion in both films, used mainly to provide subtle support the sourced music and some of each film’s sound effects, but that is about it. Room shaking extravaganzas these are not!
To sum things up, if you are at all familiar with these films, you already know that the source material is not conducive to a surround sound experience that will leave you dazzled. Likewise, these soundtracks do not contain much in the way of heart-pounding low bass, but I cannot fault them for failing to present what is not there in the first place. Again, I think these tracksy could have done a better job placing the listener in the center of crowded environments (the few times it is called for), but since they generally offer clean and precise presentations of the audio information for these two films, I am confident that most fans will enjoy them.
To be honest, there is a lot more deleted material than I would have expected for both of these films, although it is not exactly in the form of traditional deleted scenes. What I mean is that each section contains a variety of scenes that were excised from the final film, some appropriate to the section they are contained in and some not. In the case of Happy Gilmore, just over 20 minutes of excised material is provided for our viewing pleasure.
Some of what you can expect to see in the following sub-sections are: Happy hiring his caddie, Happy getting better acquainted with Virginia, more of Happy being heckled by the “jackass” guy, and a very funny scene where Ben Stiller had the seniors at the retirement home doing jobs other than making quilts!
The “deleted scenes” are grouped as follows:
--- At Grandma’s House
--- The Waterbury Open
--- Happyland Mini-Golf
--- Happy On Tour
--- The Tour Championship
--- At The Nursing Home
Running for approximately 5 minutes, the “gag reel” features fairly standard fare, which is footage of most of the principal cast either flubbing lines or otherwise screwing around on the set. Some of the snippets of film are pretty funny…
There are a total of 9 pages of text provided, which briefly outline the origins of the idea for the film, a few aspects of the production, and a little behind-the-scenes information.
Trailers for Dazed & Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Chronicles of Riddick, and The Bourne Supremacy are included.
The feature-length “director’s commentary” for Billy Madison, provided by director Tamra Davis, turns out to be surprisingly boring and uneventful. The biggest problem is that there are many pauses, and even when Tamra does speak, she is quiet, reserved, and brief in her commentary.
To be fair, she does tell a few amusing stories about her experiences making the film, including how she became involved in the project after it was already underway, and about hanging with Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, and Chris Farley (the “Dead Game” story is crazy). However, these stories are generally few and far between, and the level of detail is very superficial otherwise.
The comments I found most interesting (but again, they are usually quite brief) pertained to:
--- Davis’ desire to infuse color throughout the film, and create a different look for each classroom.
--- The approach to comedy that Tamra takes, namely do not take on the project if you do not think the star is funny, and do not be judgmental – trust the material and the performers, instead of trying to be the final word on what is funny and what is not.
--- Comments on how Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler flesh out ideas, and on Adam Sandler’s obsession with music.
As was the case with Happy Gilmore the deleted scenes contain a whole host (approximately a half-hour’s worth) of deleted material, which has been grouped into the following subsections:
--- The Pool, Penguins, and Pornography
--- Billy At Home
--- Being Billy
--- School Days
--- Eric and Principal Anderson
--- Academic Decathlon & Graduation
Fans can expect to see pieces of Billy’s big musical number trimmed from the film, more of Juanita, more of the O’Doyle clan, more of Billy talking to his father, and Billy instilling some locker room envy into his elementary school classmates (for a second, anyway
The gag reel for Billy Madison, which runs for nearly 4 minutes, was surprisingly boring. Basically, it consists of little more than line flubs and the other assorted silliness typically found in such extras, although I did not find it funny. Of course, your mileage may vary.
What I did find interesting was the look at how much work went into filming some of the scenes involving the elementary school age kids, particularly the one where Billy has an exchange with a little boy who says “Mortal Kombat on Sega Genesis is the best videogame ever.” I never would have imagined it would require so many takes to get that line right.
For Billy Madison, 8 pages of production notes are provided, which offer a bit of detail on the writing process, the search for the perfect Madison estate, and the box-office success realized by the film.
Trailers for Dazed & Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Chronicles of Riddick, and The Bourne Supremacy are included.
(on a five-point scale)
Films: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Video: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Audio: :star: :star: :star:
Extras: :star: :star: :star:
Overall: :star: :star: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
If you have a strong aversion to Adam Sandler, you might want to steer clear of both Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, as they are chock full of the juvenile humor found in all of his early work. In some ways, however, they are also his most raw and funniest films. To be sure, they have completely absurd plots, but they are still charming, and feature some truly outstanding comic performances from Bradley Whitford, Darren McGavin, Carl Weathers, and Christopher McDonald, not to mention come great cameo appearances from a variety of others!
As a DVD set, this is a pretty nice package if you like these films, as each contains a wonderful anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1) and decent Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel soundtracks. In addition, each film contains a gag reel and a ton of material trimmed from the theatrical cuts of the films, and Billy Madison features a commentary by director Tamra Davis (although this was quite disappointing). There are no documentaries or retrospective featurettes, but this is surely a vast improvement over what was offered to fans last time out.
All in all, if you like Adam Sandler, and don’t have these films in your collection, go out and pick the Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison collection up! Or, some not-so-subtle hints to those doing the Christmas shopping in your household might work… Christmas is right around the corner, after all. In any event, thanks to Universal for righting the almost criminal action of releasing Happy Gilmore in “foolscreen” only, and for bundling these films with such a vast quantity of material that was trimmed from the films. Again, most of it would not have worked, in the context of the films, but it was very interesting to see nonetheless. Recommended!!!