Big Daddy movie full length review - Sandler has another talent, but throws it away
Upon finishing Big Daddy I had a feeling of optimism and disappointment at the same time.
This is one of the few perfect examples showing that Adam Sandler can effectively make a drama film, with some mild comedy, and create a relatively passable picture, but he opts out for cruder, more one-dimensional projects that provide little wit. This among 50 First Dates, Click, and Funny People can be viewed as the delightfully surprising Sandler pictures. The rest you can feel free to discard.
I'm too amazed at how tolerable some of the pictures where Sandler is out of the frame are. By now, most are aware of the Happy Madison regulars; Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Kevin Nealon, and newcomers Kevin James and Nick Swardson. I found Happy Madison's Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Grandma's Boy to be entertaining works, if marginally forgettable, but also observed how when Sandler is working as producer, the end result is more often than not better. We'll see if that formula continues to thrive. I have quite a few more Happy Madison pictures to dig through.
Here, Sandler is actually rather capable playing the doughy man-child Sonny, who is 32, works one day a week at a toll-booth, and somehow still managed to snag the beautiful girlfriend. He manages to remain in stable conditions living off restitution payments from a petty vehicle accident. While Sonny's recently engaged roommate Kevin, played by, yes that, Jon Stewart, is off on business in China, Sonny is greeted with a five year old named Julian (the Sprouse twins) on his doorstep, and a written note claims that Julian came from a night of partying on Kevin's part. Unable to return home, Kevin puts Sonny under the care of Julian, and Sonny winds up lying to Social Services saying he is Kevin.
So, when Sandler's character is the parent, what do you think will happen? Insubordination? Mischief? Rambunctiousness and chaos galore? Well, you're right, but all in a muted form. What Sonny winds up doing with the kid is rather tame and not expected from the usual Sandler schtick. There's even a hint of nice sentimentality, that comes in the form of pleasantness rather than conventional schmaltz. He allows the kid to utilize options rather than orders to hopefully round him out to be a better person, rather than evolve into a miserable degenerate late on in life. Ultimately, the focus is more on the slapstick and the crudeness of the picture, and we go from some marginally sentimental scenes to jokes about Sonny's relationship with his gay friends (Covert and Dante) very quickly. But even then, the film never truly becomes dismal or reprehensible.
There's even a love story, with the beautiful Joey Lauren Adams playing Layla, Kevin's fiancée's sister. She keeps the story from truly going too far into the sea of despair, and is even involved in some of the film's best scenes. The one I immediately think of is the bedtime story.
What ultimately stops Big Daddy dead in its tracks is formula, which truly isn't taken in a way sharp enough to wholeheartedly recommend. Its mixture of slapstick and charm is impressive, the performances are nice, and the delivery is rarely rocky, but at times, the film becomes a tad too contrived, incorporating textbook pieces like the inevitable courtroom scene at the end and the "cute kid says naughty thing" cliché. For Sandler, it's a step up, and he may want to consider more of the impressively sassy kids films with a nice heart.
Starring: Adam Sandler, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Rob Schneider, Leslie Mann, and Steve Buscemi. Directed by: Dennis Dugan.