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Happy Gilmore Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 April 2007

Image “Happy” Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is a hockey lover nursing a childhood dream of making it on a professional-league team. The problem is that while he can hit the puck, he’s a klutz on skates and has a violent temper. Happy’s guardian is his beloved grandmother (Frances Bay), who’s being thrown out of her house—she hasn’t paid her taxes. While supervising the state repossession agents who are emptying grandma’s house, Happy accidentally discovers that thanks to his hockey training, he has a particular talent for golf, especially the “long drive.” Encouraged by ex-golf pro Chubbs (Carl Weathers) and supportive Pro Tour publicist Virginia (Julie Bowen), Happy endeavors to win enough prize money on the golf circuit to save his grandmother’s home from the auction block. Organizers are initially appalled by Happy’s crude, uncouth game antics, but leave him be when his charismatic earthiness begins to gain him a large audience of rowdy supporters. As Happy rises through the ranks on the golf tour, it puts him at odds with egomaniacal snob Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald). who’s determined to win the tournament this year, at any cost, and horrified by Happy’s profane behavior on the golf course.

Adam Sandler’s second starring vehicle (following “Billy Madison”) is a light, pleasant and enjoyable affair, peppered with many hilarious scenes and some occasionally witty wordplay. Sandler makes a likeable lead, and while Happy is a crude, mercurial character, he’s really a softie and is on such a positive mission, that his antics never undermine our sympathies. The PG-13 rating helps in this regard, as all his cursing is shown through television broadcast monitors, which naturally bleep out the offending words. It allows the director to have its cake and eat it too, as we understand the reaction to his streams of profanity and are amused by it, but don’t have the language thrown in our faces. Sandler is abetted by the supporting cast. Christopher McDonald makes a fine villain and straight man. Joe Flaherty is enjoyable as a dim, grasping fan of Shooter McGavin’s who colludes in trying to sabotage Happy. Richard Kiel makes a few brief and amusingly intimidating appearances as Happy’s one-time-boss who becomes a fan. Bob Barker proves he’s quite game, playing himself as a foul-tempered and unpleasant celebrity golfer who has a memorable bout of golf-course fisticuffs with Happy.

The film is pretty much stolen by Carl Weathers, as Happy’s mentor Chubbs-- a one-time golf legend whose career was destroyed when his hand was bitten off by an alligator during a tournament in Florida. Graced with an intentionally bad and hilarious fake hand prop, Weathers just barely manages to hold his composure during several sequences, and often seems on the brink of laughing. His grin is infectious and combined with that terrible fake hand and some really funny sequences, makes his character and scenes irresistibly hilarious. Sadly, his character exits in shockingly hilarious fashion before the last third of the film. His absence is felt and the resulting focus on the by-the-numbers romance and the necessary mechanics of the golf tour and McGavin’s intrigues take some of the comedic energy out of the final act of the film. It also features some really blatant, groan-inducing product placement of the “Pepsi Pro Tour” and “Hey, let’s go get a Subway!” variety.

Director (and actor) Dennis Dugan keeps things moving at a perky clip and the picture never outstays its welcome. It’s capably told, without flashiness, allowing the actors and script to do their job. The story is a bit lightweight and the ending such a foregone conclusion, that there’s not much dramatic tension. Oddly enough, Ben Stiller’s hilariously mean orderly (who oppresses Happy’s grandmother in the old age home she is deposited in) never receives any comeuppance and as far as the film’s story is concerned is still oppressing the elderly in his charge at the final fadeout.

Universal’s HD DVD release is a fine (though unremarkable) rendition of the film. The image has an appreciable stability and increased sharpness over standard DVD. Details are sharp, particularly in crowd scenes and the film source is pristine. Facial details are crisp depending on the performer and the shot, but all appears to be a perfect replication of the original photography. Colors are bright, pleasing and appear accurate. The flowers in front of grandma’s house are notably vivid, and have a pleasing sharpness and clarity. Some grain inherent in the photography is occasionally visible and there’s the odd soft shot. It’s not a demo quality disc, but it’s an excellent rendition of the film, and probably the best it can look as far as home video is concerned.

The sound is crisp and clear as a bell, with dialogue always intelligible and music and sound effects given appropriate presence and punch. It’s a primarily front-centered mix, with minimal surround usage, though crowd sequences have a more realistic and enveloping presence. More ambitious effects (such as in the car crash and the POV golfball shots) have an additional amount of appreciable surround presence.

Bonus features are fairly slim. There are 20 minutes of deleted scenes. The menu has them grouped by scene location, rather than in sequence, so it seems on first glance, as if there are only 5 different deleted scenes, but those are just the subject headings, not the names of the scenes. There are more than a dozen. Most are pretty flat, but there are some amusing bits included; particularly worthwhile is a satisfying comeuppance for Ben Stiller’s sadistic orderly, which should have made final cut. Image and sound quality on the bonus materials is quite poor and all appear to be sourced from a workprint VHS videotape and have rough audio. All are presented in non-anamorphic letterboxed 1.85:1 and look bleary, and indistinct. The outtakes are brief. Unfortunately, no trailers are included.

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