Review: 'Big Daddy' -- bringing up Sandler
June 25, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- In the last couple of years, Adam Sandler has become one of Hollywood's most popular comedic actors. With a string of hits including; "Happy Gilmore" (1996), "The Wedding Singer" (1998) and "The Waterboy" (1998), Sandler has a name that can get a film made.
Still, the world -- at least for our purposes at the moment -- is divided into two camps: fans of Sandler, and people who'd rather have frontal lobotomies than sit through one of the man's juvenile yuk fests.
Similarly, Sandler seems to be running on two tracks. While most of his movies are purely adolescent, he appears to be trying to widen his appeal with "The Wedding Singer" and now with "Big Daddy."
Sandler and son
In this new one, Sandler plays Sonny Koufax, a happy-go-lucky guy with a law degree but no ambition. All his friends, including his roommate Kevin, played by Jon Stewart, are taking the plunge into adulthood -- taking real jobs, getting engaged. But not Sonny. To his girlfriend and father's chagrin, he's content just to float through life.
In a misguided attempt to prove his relationship-readiness to that girlfriend Vanessa (Kristy Swanson), he attempts to illegally adopt a 5-year-old boy, Julian. The kid is played by twin brothers Cole and Dylan Sprouse, 6-year-old acting veterans. They made their joint debut at age 1 as Patrick, youngest son of Brett Butler, in the TV sitcom "Grace Under Fire."
Vanessa promptly dumps Sonny. So now he's stuck with the kid. His first reaction is to get rid of the rug rat, but then he suddenly falls in love with the little guy. At the same time, the child-services officials catch up with him, and he spends the rest of the film trying to hold on to the joys of fatherhood.
This section of the film is very endearing as Sonny confuses fatherhood with owning a dog. When Julian wets the bed, Sonny's solution is to put down newspapers. Spilled milk? Put down newspapers. And when the kid throws up? Put down newspapers.
Along the way, Sonny also falls in love with Layla, a hard-working attorney played by Joey Lauren Adams. She starred as Alyssa in the 1997 film "Chasing Amy." She's a talent worth watching.
With his last five feature films, Sandler has built a creative team, mostly buddies from his student days at New York University. He's now the king of the current stupid-adolescent film genre. His idiotic movies have made hundreds of millions of dollars.
But in "The Wedding Singer" and now "Big Daddy," we get a hint at a maturing Sandler -- fewer sight gags, more character development. After all, the Brooklyn native is 32.
This is a sweet-natured comedy that hits the mark more often than not. And it has a couple of interesting subplots, one involving a gay couple as part of Sonny's extended family.
The film provides enough stupidity that Sandler fans will love it, and since there's a plot, even non-believers might want to check this one out. Sandler seems to have genuine chemistry with the twin boys playing little Julian, and the other supporting cast members come off fairly well, too.
"Big Daddy" opens nationwide on Friday, June 25th and is rated PG-13. It has a running time of 95 minutes.
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