Billy Madison (1995) 
Blu-ray Comedy
Written by Noah Fleming   
Tuesday, 31 May 2011

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It is hard to argue that Adam Sandler has had a tremendous career.  Not everyone is a fan of the man, and likely for good reason.  However, Sandler has permeated television, music and film.  After a success on Saturday Night Live, Sandler landed his first feature role in “Billy Madison.”

The film, also written by the star, has received mixed reviews from critics and fans.  Taking the film for what it is it is quite successful, however flawed it may be.  The film was not successful when measured in a monetary form.  It earned a paltry amount at the box office.  However, this is likely due to the fact that the world was not ready for Sandler yet.  Had Sandler gained more popularity in pop culture “Billy Madison” would likely have been more successful, like “Happy Gilmore.”

The film has done well post its theatrical run.  It has been a popular choice on several comedy and network television stations as well as a rental.  The film, previously released on HD on the defunct HD DVD format, now receives its Blu-ray release.

Sandler stars as the title character, a man-child who lives in his own world.  He is at least in his late 20s and lives at home, well a mansion, with his father and staff.  He is the son of the CEO of Madison Hotels.  Madison spends his days drink daiquiris, sun-tanning and looking at oddly risqué magazines.  When his father decides to retire and hand the company over tor Eric, an unethical businessman, Billy comes up with the idea of redoing school to graduate and take over the company.  He has 24 weeks to pass each grade from first through twelfth.

The film basically follows Billy through a few of the early grades, filling them with every joke that can be thought of involving a grown man taking first, second and third grades over again.  Along the way he realizes how much he goofed off the first time around through school and the bully that he used to be.  The latter will become important later in the film.

It wouldn’t be a comedy film without a leading lady.  Bridgette Wilson portrays Veronica, Billy’s third grade teacher.  She quickly turns from cold to loving.  Director Tamra Davis, who has worked in music videos, television and films got her big break with this film.  She went on to direct “Half Baked,” another fruitless comedy and Britney Spears’ “Crossroads.”

“Billy Madison” comes to Blu-ray with the same high-definition transfer that was made for the HD DVD release.  The outcome is one of suitable hi-def video material, but hardly top notch.  Based on the budget and the age of the film, it comes across quite nicely on Blu-ray.  Black levels are standards for the genre and age.  They probably could have been improved a bit, but as is, the depth of the image is above average.  The brightness of the film is perhaps a touch high, but contrast remains potent.  The colors are the most pleasing part of the video transfer.  There are no chroma or bleed issues.  The saturation is excellent, providing each scene with an enriching image.  There is plenty of film noise present so it is quite evident that no noise reduction has been performed.  The film noise is stable and adds nice texture to the image.

The audio quality is standard of the genre.  A comedy of this sort has limited surround usage.  Generally, the surrounds contain bled information or reverb.  Still, ambience is decent.  The music is the biggest part of the audio track and comes through with decent marks.  The pop/rock songs don’t have quite as much punch as I would have liked.  The dynamic range is extremely limited.  The LFE channel is virtually non-existent.  Overall, this is a decent audio track, but far from demo worthy.

The special features on the Blu-ray disc are all previously released materials.  The first is a collection of about 30 minutes of deleted scenes.  There are few minutes of outtakes.  Lastly there is an audio commentary by director Tamra Davis.  All special features are in standard definition.

“Billy Madison” is funny in parts, but fails as a cohesive film.  The audio and video qualities are better than hi-def broadcasts, but don’t live up to some of the better catalogue titles on Blu-ray.  Worth a rent.
Studio Universal Studios Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG-13
Starring Adam Sandler, Bridgette Wilson, Norm MacDonald, Darren McGavin, Dradley Whitford, Larry Hankin
Director Tamra Davis
Film Release Year 1995
Release Year 2011
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Running Time 1 hr. 30 mins.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 5.1 • French DTS 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • French • Spanish
Special Features Director Audio Commentary; Deleted Scenes; Outtakes
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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