Happy Gilmore

I suppose the best thing I can say about Happy Gilmore is that it contained a moderate amount of laughs. Its screenplay is incredibly predictable, as are many of the jokes, but there are more than a couple of genuinely great moments, and if that what you most want — a few big laughs as opposed to a myriad of smaller ones — then I suppose Happy Gilmore will suit your tastes. Just don’t expect it to do anything more than that, and also be prepared for great stretches where it wants to be less comedy and more drama, but doesn’t have the chops to pull that off.

The film stars and was co-written by Adam Sandler, here playing a man named Happy Gilmore. He’s wanted to play hockey at a professional level for his entire life but hasn’t been able to accomplish that goal because, for lack of a better phrase, he sucks at it. He can’t do anything well but shoot the puck. He was raised by his grandmother (Frances Bay), who hasn’t paid her taxes and is going to lose her house. On a bet, he hits a golf ball like he would shoot a puck, and it goes farther than anyone would anticipate. He’s going to play golf and earn the money his grandmother needs to keep her house.

I say “he’s going to” because there is little doubt throughout the whole movie that he’ll somehow manage to accomplish this task. It’s a comedy, after all, and how many of them aren’t going to let the hero succeed in his goal. If that spoils the movie for you then you’re the type of person who wouldn’t likely enjoy it anyway. You’re too hung up on things that don’t really matter. Things like “plot” in this case, apparently.

On the golf tour, a few things happen. (1) He starts up a rivalry with Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), for little reason except that we need someone to rival Happy. (2) He starts up a relationship with Virginia (Julie Bowen), a public relations person for the tour. (3) He hires a homeless man (Allen Covert) to be his caddy. (4) He and Bob Barker (playing himself) get in a fist fight. Okay, I just ruined one of the best scenes in the movie. I’m sorry.

I struggle to recall much more of the film outside of its basic plot. That’s because there’s little here that isn’t formulaic in one way or another. A computer could write this screenplay if you punched in a few of the key descriptors. There is nothing here that you haven’t seen before and won’t see again. Is it worth sitting through for a handful of laughs? I’ll leave that up to you. It’s one of the better Adam Sandler movies, but that bar isn’t exactly high, is it?

Happy is an angry person for absolutely no reason. I didn’t get it. His grandmother is an incredibly sweet person, and his whole reason for playing golf is not for greed, but to win enough money to buy back her house. That’s nice. But apart from that, this isn’t the type of person to lead a film like this. We’re supposed to be able to root for our lead, but we can’t do that here. Is he mean because he likes hockey? I hate to break it to you, but most hockey players are nice people. They have to be; they’re Canadian.

Comedy works best when you’re not expecting what’s coming. The surprise is part of the experience. The subversion of your expectations is what makes it work. Unfortunately, Happy Gilmore is more or less predictable from start to finish. You can see the story beats coming from a mile away, and most of the jokes are also the easiest ones available — as if the screenplay had a tight deadline so the writers went with the most familiar material they had in their heads and used that. There’s little inspiration, save for the few times where you’ll be laughing very hard. These are not particularly frequent, but I’d be lying to say they don’t exist at all.

Happy Gilmore is a juvenile take on the game of golf, but it plays out like every other sports comedy out there. That means you’ve seen this basic story, the jokes are uninspired, and while there are a few good moments, for me at least, they’re not worth sitting through an entire movie. Adam Sandler’s character is unjustifiably mean — even though his primary motivation is sweet — and it’s hard to cheer for him as a result. Happy Gilmore is intermittently funny but I don’t think it’s worth seeing.

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