Happy Gilmore

A triumph of indirection. It hooks, in POV shots from a flying golf ball that make you glad it’s not a hockey film, and it slices, with all the boredom of a tournament. It tosses in “Woolly Bully”. It meanders through a part suited to Pauly Shore. It squanders Julie Bowen as a Doris Day imitation, but shows her to advantage in fantasy sequences. It has Richard Kiel. It gives you Carl Weathers as you’ve never seen him before. It has Bob Barker. And out of all this, with the desperation of its title character sinking a miraculous putt, it wins the day.

To tell the truth, it’s really like Nabokov’s system of mirrors in a novel somewhere.


Beverly Hills Ninja

There are several points of comedy that set the mark, above all the clank of printing plates dropped on the floor by Farley at a crucial moment after he’s hidden them in his coat from the counterfeiters. Another is Chris Rock’s excited “you’re a ninja?” in the hotel. These two sounds have something about them, deadpan and excessive, in just the right measure.

Dugan’s master coup may be Soon-Teck Oh as the Sensei, a part he was born to play. Nicolette Sheridan in a sense goes beyond the exquisite bimbery of Spy Hard bouncing off doors into the straightforward realm of foil to Farley, which is another degree of accomplishment.

The astute detailing of the comedy, played for carelessness at first blush, has for example Will Sasso give a great rendition of a Beverly Hills ninny (“Who shot the couch?” is his guffawing remark on a suit) subdued and impersonated by Farley, who apes his manner in a broadening spectacle, a parody of a satire.


Big Daddy

Big Daddy is a remake of Charles Chaplin’s The Kid, and modestly requires a good many more talents than the original. The ending ablates the artistic and technical consequences of the setup, in order to subsist as a formal equivalent of the high-powered jokes that constitute the satirical basis overlaid on Chaplin’s armature.

The association of newspapers with bedwetting and spilt milk is a good example. Roger Ebert’s review is the second example I know of a critic misconstruing the material content of a film by 180 (Andrew Sarris thought Meet John Doe was pro-Fascist). “Most critics are cynical jackasses.”

Dennis Dugan seems to have become the ideal Adam Sandler director, merely by becoming more himself.

The view of New York isn’t exactly San Francisco or Paris, it’s New York as rarely seen in films.


National Security

Dugan’s film is almost not funny once or twice, and maybe he doesn’t know better than anyone else how to film a van plunging off the Vincent Thomas Bridge onto a garbage scow in the Port of Los Angeles, but that’s to say this is a really accomplished film in its own right. The centerpiece is really part of the exposition, a long, detailed, brilliant study of how a cop goes to prison because of a misapprehension. Which only leads to Joe Flaherty demonstrating to hirees at National Security the compartments in a guard’s belt, such as the one with dimes for calling the police.

The slow-motion in Dugan’s shoot-‘em-ups comes from Poitier, and the real skill of this comedy resembles Dugan’s own acting, a very knowledgeable and sagacious treatment of deadpan, not too dry. The substance of it is a calculation of set pieces to an exhaustive conclusion, with a modesty of demeanor signifying interest in the work, and to its benefit.

None of which can, by any lack of imagination, arrive at A.O. Scott’s conclusion on behalf of the New York Times: “For starters, there is a thorough—you might almost say a systematic—lack of imagination in the script... the direction...”