Critic's Corner

Richard Harrington - Style section, "A genial and surprisingly self-contained performance by Adam Sandler."


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'Happy Gilmore' Scores

After a 10th straight year of not making the local semipro hockey team, Happy goes slappy on the coach, manager and everyone else who made the team. Soon after, he also tosses an IRS agent through a glass door for repossessing his beloved Grandma's house over delinquent taxes, which is forcing her into a seedy nursing home. Since Grandma took Happy in after an errant slap shot killed his dad, he makes it his mission to earn $270,000 to regain her home. He does this by joining the Professional Golfers Association.

Seems Happy's wicked slap shots translate into 400-yard tee shots, and while he's a little rough around the edges -- and a little edgy around the roughs -- he somehow manages to win a qualifying tournament for the pro tour. In no time -- though enough time for him to fall for a PGA publicist -- Happy's headed for a showdown with the current champ, Shooter McGavin, with the final match holding the fate of Grandma's house and Happy's romance. -- Richard Harrington Rated PG-13


Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Adam Sandler; Frances Bay; Julie Bowen; Christopher McDonald; Verne Lundquist; Carl Weathers; Bob Barker
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes









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'Happy Gilmore': Above Par Silliness

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 16, 1996

"Happy Gilmore" is the most enjoyable film yet by a recent alumnus of "Saturday Night Live," thanks to a genial and surprisingly self-contained performance by Adam Sandler. Sandler plays the title character, a would-be professional hockey player whose aspirations are derailed by his basic inability to skate and his long-lived, short-fused temper.

After a 10th straight year of not making the local semipro team, Happy goes slappy on the coach, manager and everyone else who made the team. Soon after, he also tosses an IRS agent through a glass door for repossessing his beloved Grandma's house over delinquent taxes, which is forcing her into a seedy nursing home. Since Grandma (Frances Bay) took Happy in after an errant slap shot killed his dad, he makes it his mission to earn $270,000 to regain her home.

He does this by joining the Professional Golfers Association.

Seems Happy's wicked slap shots translate into 400-yard tee shots, and while he's a little rough around the edges—and a little edgy around the roughs—he somehow manages to win a qualifying tournament for the pro tour. In no time—though enough time for him to fall for a PGA publicist (Julie Bowen)—Happy's headed for a showdown with the current champ, Shooter McGavin (suave, snide Christopher McDonald), with the final match holding the fate of Grandma's house and Happy's romance.

The central conceit of "Happy Gilmore" drops a foul-mouthed (though mostly bleeped) hockey mug into a game where tradition, etiquette and sportsmanship are supposedly paramount. Happy, for whom everything is a contact sport, fits into this scenario like a basketball fits into a cup. Ironically, his monster drives and bizarre behavior, while creating an uproar among players and officials, turn him into a blue-collar superstar who attracts what commentator Verne Lundquist (playing himself) describes as "large, economically diverse crowds" and huge television ratings.

What saves a fairly routine plot is the combination of Sandler's generally underplayed wisenheimer mayhem and some deft cameos. Among the best: Carl Weathers as the former pro who becomes Happy's mentor, despite a wooden hand resulting from a water hazard encounter with an alligator; and TV host Bob Barker as himself in an ill-fated Pro-Am partnership that leads to a genuinely hilarious rumble and some acid repartee you'll never hear on "The Price Is Right."

Still, this is Sandler's movie, and he wisely abandons the whining boy routine, replacing it with a mischievous, good-natured and often endearing persona. He's both irrepressible—when Happy scores a hole-in-one on a long par 4, he screams: "He shoots! He scores!"—and clever, as in some shtick with a miniature hockey stick transformed into a putter.

Mostly, Sandler comes across as a goofy, well-meaning comedian willing to serve his own material rather than overwhelm it: He wrote the script with Tim Herlihy, and this team has clearly come a long way since their maiden effort, "Billy Madison." Director Dennis Dugan is no great shakes, and for the most part he wisely steps out of the way, just as the film's golf fans do when Happy tees off. "Happy Gilmore" may not be an ace in the hole, but it beats par by a long shot.

Happy Gilmore is rated PG-13, and though it contains some explicit language, most of it is bleeped out.

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