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Laramie Movie Scope:
Big Daddy

The king of the slackers stays on track

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 26, 1999 -- Adam Sandler has fashioned a lucrative career for himself as the king of slackers. His characters are always underachievers who revel in their lack of accomplishments, who fashion lives for themselves on the very fringes of society and rebel against Yuppie materialism.

In "Big Daddy," Sandler continues his increasingly popular string of hits by playing another underachiever, Sonny Koufax. Sonny works just one day a week. The rest of his income comes from investments started with money he got from the settlement of a frivolous lawsuit. He has beat the system.

His girlfriend gets tired of his lack of ambition and Koufax, sensing she is about to leave him, seizes upon the opportunity to "adopt" a young boy, Julian, the illegitimate son of his roommate, who shows up at his door. Needless to say the plan doesn't work. His girlfriend decides to leave him anyway.

Koufax decides the easiest thing to do is let Julian (played by twins, Cole and Dylan Sprouse) do whatever he wants. He figures if he doesn't put any pressure on the kid, he will grow up better. The results of this hands-off approach to child rearing are funny, and disastrous, as the kid becomes a smelly little dangerous social misfit.

After a run-in with Julian's teacher, Koufax decides he is going to have to provide some structure for Julian after all. He has to learn to say "no." He has to take a role in Julian's education and even teaches him about alternatives to public urination.

While public urination and the sabotage of inline skaters do make up a portion of the humor of this movie, it is really more about the way children have of destroying people's preconceived notions about parenthood. Koufax is a very smart guy, but he learns he can't fake being a parent. He is forced to become a parent for real. He is forced, perhaps for the first time in his life, to accept responsibility.

The movie works, for the most part, because you can believe the relationship between Sandler and the kid. The relationship between Koufax and some of the other adults in the movie, including his father, is not as convincing. Joey Lauren Adams ("Chasing Amy") is good as Sandler's new love interest, Layla. Rob Schneider, who has appeared in other Sandler movies, including "The Waterboy," is funny as a food delivery guy and Steve Buscemi has funny bit as a homeless guy.

It may be there is a kind of evolution going on in Sandler's roles from the self-indulgent "The Wedding Singer" to the frustrated ragin' Cajun "The Waterboy" to the responsibility at the end of "Big Daddy." Maybe Sandler is outgrowing these sophomoric slacker roles, but then again, why should he? He's becoming filthy rich by playing underachievers. Sandler also co-wrote the screenplay for this movie and was its executive producer. He's also working on another movie and has a new comedy recording coming out soon. Clearly, he's no slacker, and neither is this film. This movie rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1999 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]