"It’s Better To Be Kind than Rich"
What You Need To Know:
Comic Adam Sandler stars in MR. DEEDS as Longfellow Deeds, a kind-hearted, small-town boy who inherits $40 billion in stock from a great uncle he never knew. Associates try to talk Deeds into trading shares for cash, but since money has never interested him, he makes the trip to New York City simply for adventure. Deeds is completely unaware of an insidious plot to fold the company and lay off hundreds of thousands of employees. Attending to Deeds is the hilarious servant Emilio, played winningly by John Turturro. He travels around New York, where a young reporter, played by Winona Ryder, tries to buddy up to him. Pretending to be a small-town girl from Iowa, instead of a girl from a ruthless tabloid magazine show, she works her way into Deeds’ life and heart.
MR. DEEDS is mostly funny and brings a clear moral truth about the dangers of wealth and greed. It has some problems, however. The filmmakers provide no character arc for Mr. Deeds, and the comedic timing is off in several scenes. There are also some hokey moments. Finally, the movie contains plenty of lightweight foul language and comical violence
(RoRo, B, LLL, VV, N, AA, D, M) Romantic worldview with idealistic, “world’s-system,” emotion-based decisions and outlook; some slight biblical worldview elements with message that men want to be heroes and rescuers of the pure “girl-next-door,” living for the higher purpose of meaningful relationships, kindness, seeing life in small things, unhooked by greed, etc.; significant foul language with 32 obscenities; plenty of violence, though portrayed in comedic ways, including fistfights, foot beatings with fire poker, restaurant punch-outs, etc.; rear male nudity in shower scene; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as deception, lying, cheating, betrayal, and throwing eggs at luxury cars.
Following the tone of BIG DADDY, WATERBOY and THE WEDDING SINGER, MR. DEEDS is a typical Adam Sandler movie: funny, inane, silly, over-the-top, with some light, sweet messages.
Adam Sandler plays Longfellow Deeds, a great-nephew to Preston Blake, one of the world’s richest businessmen, who has just died atop Mt. Everest. The simple, kind-hearted, small-town boy inherits $40 billion in stock from this great uncle he never knew, but since money has never interested Deeds too much, he makes the trip to New York City simply for adventure.
The late Preston Blake’s right hand men (including Peter Gallagher as Chuck) try to talk Longfellow into signing over all his shares in the media conglomerate, Blake Enterprises, in exchange for $40 billion cash. The simple Deeds thinks that sounds fine and is completely unaware of an insidious plot to fold the company and lay off hundreds of thousands of employees as soon as papers are signed.
Deeds stays in his late uncle’s penthouse, where he is attended to by the hilarious servant Emilio, played winningly by John Turturro. Deeds shows the servant his black feet, which have suffered frostbite in previous years and have no feeling, and asks Emilio what he thinks. A typical line of this movie is seen in Emilio’s formal, heavily accented reply: “The hideousness of that foot will haunt me in my dreams.” Deeds challenges Emilio to smack his foot with a fire poker, which Emilio does, with hilarious results.
Emilio is also very sneaky, by the way. He mysteriously appears at Deeds’ side, and a moment later is seen at the balcony two floors above. He tells his new master, “I believe you underestimate the level of my sneakiness, sir.”
Though Deeds has been told to stay in the penthouse, he travels about New York, where a young reporter, Pam (Winona Ryder), tries to buddy up to him. Pretending to be a small-town girl from Iowa, instead of a girl named “Babe” from a ruthless tabloid magazine show, she works her way into Deed’s life and heart. Deeds surprises her one day by flying her to her supposedly pretend small town of “Winchesterfieldville,” Iowa. Another hilarious scene unfolds as she tries to continue the ruse.
Deeds’ New York City excursions take him to posh restaurants and clubs, where he sees how the rich, elite live their snotty, belittling lives. He punches a few out (in typical Adam Sandler temper-style) and ends up befriending John MacEnroe. He and John get drunk and throw eggs at passing luxury cars.
In the meantime, the stakes are increasing back at Deeds’ small town in New Hampshire, as well as with the suddenly faltering Blake Enterprises. Babe’s boss is also getting antsy. He’s heard about the forbidden love interest and plans a story that will expose and ruin Mr. Deeds.
MR. DEEDS is funny and brings a clear moral about the dangers of wealth and greed. It shows that guys really do want a sweet, “girl-next-door,” and that they value real relationships. The story does have a few problems, however. One of the first rules of screenwriting is that the protagonist must have a character arc. In other words, the audience must see what all of “heaven” sees: a big need for a change in a person. The sluggard must become diligent; the self-focused must become other-directed, etc., and all this must happen through unusual and challenging circumstances that heaven sends. In this movie, however, Mr. Deeds stays the same throughout the film. He’s basically a nice, simple guy who values honesty and relationship. His eyes are opened a bit to the shallowness and greed of the wealthy elite, but his own character undergoes no change.
The other problem is that there are some moments of lag on the comedic timing. Perhaps the director is unseasoned in comedy, or perhaps the script could have been tightened.
The (mostly light) foul language is excessive in the movie, and some of the gags are hokey, but there are some hilarious Sandler-ish moments that almost make up for its weaknesses.