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Universal Studios Home Video presents
The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection (1995, 1996)

Terry: All you ever talk about is becoming a pro hockey player, but there's a problem: You're not any good.
Happy: I am good. You know what, you're a lousy kindergarten teacher. I've seen those finger paintings you bring home and they SUCK!

- Nancy McClure, Adam Sandler (from Happy Gilmore)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 06, 2004

Stars: Adam Sandler
Other Stars: Bradley Whitford, Josh Mostel, Bridgette Wilson, Norm MacDonald, Darren McGavin, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Carl Weathers
Director: Tamra Davis, Dennis Dugan

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, crude humor, and some comic sexuality
Run Time: 01h:29m:47s, 01h:31m:51s
Release Date: November 30, 2004
UPC: 025192579929
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-A-B C

DVD Review

Billy Madison was Adam Sandler's first starring role, and in the decade since its release, and to the horror of critics everywhere, he's continued to make half a dozen films in the same vein, frat-boy comedies about violent, angry idiots that include lots of crude humor, physical comedy, and bizarre supporting characters. He's never had much of a following from the Roger Eberts of the world, who seem truly puzzled by his popularity, but each of his films seems to be more successful than the last, and he's become the nearest thing we've got these days to a box-office sure thing (as long as he's not doing "serious" work in a movie like Punch-Drunk Love, that is).

I can't say I have an adequate explanation for the man's unbridled success, save to say that he's got charisma and screen presence and seems genuinely likeable. I'm not necessarily a fan of his films (Big Daddy was the turning point, and I haven't really enjoyed one of his broad comedies since), but he's a pretty funny guy (Saturday Night Live could certainly use him these days), and I have to admit, his flicks play pretty well on video.

Take, for example, the two films offered in the newly re-issued Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection. Made in 1995 and 1996, respectively, the duo introduced Sandler as a leading man, did marginal business in theaters, and blew up on video (and later, DVD), becoming staples in the collection of every college-age stoner and frat boy. But I'm neither of those things, and I still freely admit to being a fan of both of the films.

Billy Madison is the lesser of the two. It's the story of Billy (Sandler), the idiot son of a billionaire who finds out he won't inherit his father's fortune unless he can prove he won't ruin the company by going back to school and completing first through 12th grade in just six months. Sandler gets a lot of mileage out of his idiot man-child persona, and really, with the way Billy acts throughout much of the movie (singing to himself, drinking until he hallucinates), I have trouble believing he'd be able to complete his stupid plan, let alone run a company, but the movie's loosely structured plot allows for all of the gags that later became staples for the comedian: humiliation of old people, violent throwaway jokes (a whole family of bullies that terrorizes Billy as he moves from grade to grade winds up dying horribly), and bizarre cameos from Sandler's friends (in this case, the uncredited Chris Farley and Steve Buscemi). Watching Sandler interact with, and scream at, small children is funny at first, but the gag wears out quickly, and the remaining plot elements, including a romance with a teacher (Bridgette Wilson) and rivalry with the snob who'll take over the company if Billy fails (Bradley Whitford) don't really hold together.

I much prefer the sports comedy Happy Gilmore (directed by Sandler's buddy Dennis Dugan, who also made Big Daddy), about a failed hockey player who finds his killer slap shot translates to a 400-yard drive on the golf course. Again, the plot is more of a loose outline—Happy enters a golf tournament (with the aid of an old pro played by Carl Weathers) in order to raise money to pay back-taxes and save his grandma's house. He's opposed by champion golfer Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), a pro champ who objects to upstart Happy's antics and instant popularity (that most of his fans seem to be rowdy drunks doesn't help). There's another cookie-cutter romance (with a tour coordinator played by Julie Bowen) and more cameos, including a most memorable fistfight between Sandler and Bob Barker during a celebrity golf tour ("The price is wrong, bitch!")

Neither movie is what I'd call a classic, but both are good examples of Sandler's humor (dim bulb lead battles barely suppressed rage). Chances are, you already know if you're a fan. If you are, the Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection will provide a nice walk down a poop-joke covered memory lane. If you're not, well, a dozen more instances of people getting hit in the crotch won't change your mind.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This new collection features re-mastered transfers of both titles, marking the first time Happy Gilmore has been available on DVD in widescreen in Region 1. Both films are of the same approximate vintage, and look about the same on disc: bright and colorful. Prints appear clean, with strong blacks and minimal grain, and little to speak of in terms of edge enhancement, aliasing, or artifacting. I wasn't able to compare Happy Gilmore to its previous release, but Billy Madison looks about the same as the 1998 DVD to my eyes, except perhaps for a more saturated color palette and better compression.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Low-budget comedies aren't tyically the type of movies that command an active surround mix, let alone require both DD 5.1 and DTS mixes, but Universal has included both for this set. Don't expect a lot of surround activity, though—this are primarily dialogue-based comedies, and most of the audio comes from the center speaker, with music and stereo effects mixed to the front mains. Surrounds are inactive to the point where I never really noticed them kick in.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
13 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Billy Madison director Tamra Davis
Packaging: Box Set
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Gag reels
Extras Review: I think it's stretching it a bit to refer to these re-releases as "special editions," but each film does include significantly more material than the previous, movie-only discs, so that's something, I suppose.

As with the audio/video quality, extras are comparable as well. Both films include brief gag reels (mostly of Sandler blowing takes) that aren't very funny, and lengthy reels of rather dull deleted scenes. Billy Madison has six, totaling 32m:54s, and Happy Gilmore has seven, with a running time of just over 20 minutes. I didn't find much of the cut footage particularly amusing, or even worth seeing, but it's nice that it's there for the curious.

Only Billy Madison includes a commentary, this one from director Tamra Davis (Crossroads. She says up front that she hates watching her movies once she's finished them, and she doesn't prove herself wrong with her slow-going commentary. Early on she reveals that, as a female director, she was very aware that Sandler was "cut" and sexy during filming. And then she lapses into silence before explaining that she had to put her faith in Sandler and the writers that material about skin mags called She-Male Fiesta and Drunk Chicks was funny, since she didn't necessarily think so. And so on. Though she does reveal, interestingly enough, that she wasn't the film's original director, and thus, had to really concentrate during the shoot.

Both discs also include brief production notes and begin with Universal DVD promos, but neither includes a trailer for its respective feature. The discs are packaged in individual keepcases slipped into a nice cardboard sleeve.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

With Adam Sandler's recent bids for credibility (Punch-Drunk Love, Jim Brook's Spanglish ) outshining his dumb comedies (the financially successful but creatively bankrupt Mr. Deeds and 50 First Dates), it's nice to be able to go back to a time when the comic's idiot man-child shtick still felt fresh and funny. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore are his two most consistently entertaining comedic outings, and this two-pack, available in most store for less than $20, is the best way to see them.


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