Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Produced by: Allen Covert, Adam Sandler, Robert Simmonds & Jack Giarraputo
Starring: Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Rob Schneider, Cole & Dylan Sprouse, Leslie Mann & Steve Buscemi
Budget: $34.2 million
Box office: $234.8 million Release date: June 25, 1999
Adam Sandler isn’t exactly the toast of the town these days. His last few films have been critical catastrophes and his latest starring role in Pixels seems like it might be the last straw for some. Now far from me to agree with everything the mainstream critics say, look at the name of this series for God sake, but they couldn’t be more right with these opinions. Adam Sandler’s main problem is that he refuses to evolve; he is literally milking the same jokes, plots and gimmicks that he was milking in the late 90’s and even back then they didn’t always work. To call Sandler uninterested, derivative and even lazy with regards to his work of the last ten years would be no stretch.
It wasn’t always this way though. When he makes the effort Sandler can be very funny. His average-Joe shtick can be likeable and even kind-of relatable and he once had surprisingly sharp delivery, mainly because he once wasn’t spending the shoots with one eye on the clock both in-between and during takes. Big Daddy is a great example of this former talent yet despite this and despite making a truck-load of the good stuff it received a pretty lukewarm response from the critics, holding a score of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This score isn’t quite catastrophic but the film received a lot of criticism aimed specifically at Sandler’s performance even going as far as getting him a Razzie Award for Worst Actor. Now don’t get me wrong he shouldn’t have been showered with awards from the other end of the spectrum either but this is a serious push as was criticism geared towards shifts in tone and a clichéd plot. Being a Sandler movie with a Razzie Award isn’t be a lonely profession by any means but the point is that Big Daddy deserves better. It features some great spoken and visual humour, a great soundtrack, some surprisingly heart-warming moments and a strong performance from Sandler and his co-stars. For these reasons I actually enjoyed it and was genuinely surprised at all the negativity.
It’s true; hard to believe as it may be for readers only familiar with his recent works but Sandler puts in a good shift here and clearly believed in the script. This wouldn’t have always been an easy task either with his co-stars being a 5 year old child who was actually being played by two 7 year old twins. Dylan and Cole Sprouse don’t exactly break down barriers with their performances or do-away with the perfectly justifiable notion that kids that age in front of a camera generally don’t work but they do get in a few funnies. Even if their facial expressions give you the impression that their reading off a key sheet with size 2 font and their mouth movements over the dubbed lines are about as accurate as a sock puppets. Elsewhere Joey Lauren Adams makes a charming love interest, Rob Schneider’s typically eccentric character does his job in a harmless manner and before moving onto bigger things Steve Buscemi plays a minor role as Homeless Guy, that’s his actual credited name in the film not just my bad research by the way, and might have the two funniest scenes in the whole thing!
The films soundtrack is not only strong but surprisingly varied as well. It features everything from Limb Bizkit and Garbage all the way to The Pharcyde and even Mel C in one of her more listenable efforts, I understand if you don’t believe that last part. It’s a good thing that the soundtrack is up to scratch because Big Daddy features almost as many montages as a Rocky box set and even Big Audio Dynamite, the side project of ex Clash guitarist Mike Jones, can be heard.
Now onto one of the main reasons why I did and still do enjoy Big Daddy and again for a Sandler film it’s quite surprising; this film has a few genuinely touching moments. You might think that I’m referring to the obvious scenes involving the kid, or kids depending on how you look at it, and those scenes do a pretty good job in their own right. Alas though, the most touching scene in the whole film comes at the end and involves Sandler’s character, Sunny, and his father. I’m not trying to say it’s completely original and it’s maybe even a little OTT but it is well written, well-acted and provides good enough proof for this blogger that Sandler can do the business when he wants to.
Is Big Daddy the best comedy ever released? Christ no, it’s not even the best Adam Sandler comedy ever released. What it is though is a sharp, witty, well-acted and surprisingly moving piece of late-nineties comedy that harks back to a time before the star in question had completely given up the ghost on his career. I’m starting to think that it’s going to take a miracle for Adam Sandler to ever get back that old magic, especially if the tosh that he’s currently releasing keeps making money. All the same though; Big Daddy is worth checking out for nostalgic purposes and its overall quality may even surprise a few viewers who aren’t familiar with his earlier works.