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  Happy Gilmore Going Clubbing
Year: 1996
Director: Dennis Dugan
Stars: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Frances Bay, Carl Weathers, Allen Covert, Robert Smigel, Bob Barker, Richard Kiel, Dennis Dugan, Joe Flaherty, Lee Trevino, Kevin Nealon, Ken Camroux, Nancy McClure, Dee Jay Jackson, Will Sasso, Ben Stiller
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ever since he was a little boy, Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) wanted to be a hockey player and his dad would teach him to skate and take him to all the games he could, telling his son he could be anything he wanted to be, though perhaps it was not so surprising Happy felt the lure of the ice. He lived for a time with his Grandmother (Frances Bay) who doted on him, but now he has a chance to try out for a professional team all his dreams are on the verge of coming true. Or they would be if there were not drawbacks: he has a powerful strike of the puck, certainly, but there are two issues with his play that scupper his chances, one, he's unsteady on his blades, and two, his temper is nothing short of explosive and way out of control...

Although Adam Sandler made this after his breakthrough as a leading man in Billy Madison the year before, it was the success of Happy Gilmore that set him on his path to making oodles of cash for basically making the lowest common denominator movies he could with the minimum of effort and with the maximum of rewards. By the time he was into middle age, his vehicles were looked down upon from a great height by many audiences, much as his characters were looked down on by those higher up the social ladder, and this pretty much brought out his slobs versus snobs sensibilities as applied to his cinematic humour for many years to come. There was a difference between this and something like Grown-Ups 2, however.

Which was Happy Gilmore was really very funny quite often, as opposed to the irksomely lazy material he was content to coast through latterly, all the more frustrating when you watched this and saw he had the skills to make something of comedic value from his basic persona (not the backward persona of stuff like The Waterboy, though: Jerry Lewis emerged from business such as that with far more dignity back in the fifties and sixties). Here Happy is a blunt instrument of humour, he doesn't go in for high-falutin' references or clever wordplay, violent slapstick The Three Stooges would be proud of is more to his liking as he gives up the ice rinks for the golf links. He notices he can drive a golf ball for yards and yards with incredible precision, and is adopted by a new coach, Chubbs.

Chubbs was played by Carl Weathers with a commendable lack of winking to the audience of how ridiculous he is in this, what with his wooden hand replacing the one bitten off by an alligator during a tournament (!), but he was also standing in for an era of comedy Sandler grew up enjoying in the nineteen-seventies: why not have Happy trained by Apollo Creed himself? It would appear that Sandler believed his role model was Burt Reynolds; he gets a namecheck here and their careers and the general reaction to those careers are very similar, with Sandler even remaking The Longest Yard. A connection to that is also in the casting, as Sandler and his team invited Richard Kiel to appear in a couple of the most memorable scenes, intimidating the film's villain, our snob if you like, Shooter McGavin, essayed with perfect boo hiss poise by Christopher McDonald.

Shooter has to beat Gilmore to get his own tour jacket which he craves, while Gilmore wants to amass enough winnings to buy back his gran's home, with Bay offering the definitive sweet old lady performance, her area of speciality. Another sign Sandler was making lots of money: it's the Inland Revenue who are turfing her out of her home for not paying her taxes, a source of resentment for a surprising amount of stars who make it very big indeed, only few grumble as openly about it as is done here. Shooter manages to place our hero in a difficult position by almost forcing him to give up, but we and his granny won't accept that, we have to see the bad guy brought low, preferably at the clubs of Happy and the fists of umbrage taking Kiel. There were many indications of the low effort activity to come in Sandler's career, most prominently the massive product placement deal which intrudes in too many scenes, but for a change the laughs are decent, often hilarious, and the sense of absurdity is warmly conveyed, making for his most successful comedy. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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