Adam Sandler's "Big Daddy" is basically "Three Men and a Baby" short two men.
Sandler, who romanced and won over young female viewers with "The Wedding Singer," is clearly reaching out to still broader audiences in this sweetly dopey, kid-friendly, if overly contrived comedy. But he's also unwilling to abandon his loyal, fart-joke-infatuated fans either: "Big Daddy" includes potty humor for the one and pillow talk for the more romantically inclined.
Sandler, a few quarts shy of a gallon in "The Waterboy," plays slacker Sonny Koufax, a law school graduate who refuses to assume adult responsibilities. While Sonny is one of Sandler's more seasoned characters, he really is a little too old to be spitting up colored breakfast cereal. His law school buddies tolerate his childishness, but his girlfriend (Kristy Swanson) threatens to split unless he mends his ways.
In a misguided attempt to impress her, Sonny "adopts" 5-year-old Julian (identical twins Cole and Dylan Sprouse handle the role) by pretending to be the boy's biological father. At first, he is more of a playmate than a parent to Julian, but eventually comes to see the truth in the old chestnut "Like father, like son."
Freshman Steve Frank's script, which was seriously reworked by Sandler and his regular writing partner Tim Herlihy, may or may not have been as predictably written as past Sandler-Herlihy scripts. Along with the hurling, bed-wetting and loogie jokes, the story contains some uncharacteristically charming scenes.
In one, Sandler and his second love interest (the appealing Joey Lauren Adams) turn a bedtime story for Julian into a coy conversation about their future together. Sandler, Adams and the winning Sprouse twins, however, are the strength of the cast.
Most of the supporting characters are little more than plot mechanisms. Steve Buscemi is a notable exception as a homeless man with remarkable insight into the social and psychological dynamics behind his condition. Joe Bologna as Sonny's hardhearted father is all but forgotten by the time he and Sonny face off in the film's strangely anticlimactic courtroom scene. Sandler gives a speech that's supposed to tug at our heartstrings, warm our cockles and like that. I confess I did feel a chill, but I'm certain it was the air conditioning.
Big Daddy (95 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for mild profanity and bathroom humor.
CAPTION: "Big Daddy" adds kid cuteness and romance to Adam Sandler's gross-out appeal.