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Steven Brill
Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Jared Harris, Peter Gallagher, Allen Covert, Conchata Ferrell
Tim Herlihy

Don't let the fancy clothes fool you.
Box Office:
Budget $50 million.
Opening weekend $37.162 million on 3231 screens.
Domestic gross $125.65 million.
Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some rear nudity.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
English, French

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $27.96
Release Date: 10/22/2002

• Audio Commentary with Director Steven Brill and Writer Tim Herlihy
• Deleted Scenes
• “Clothes Make the Man” Featurette
• “From Mandrake Falls to Manhattan” Featurette
• Outtakes Reel
• Deeds’ Greeting Cards
• “Spare No Expense” Featurette
• Dave Matthews Band “Where Are You Going” Music Video
• Filmographies
• Theatrical Trailers
• DVD-ROM Features

Music soundtrack

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Mr. Deeds (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

After the enormous failure of 2000’s Little Nicky, some started to count out Adam Sandler as a box office force. This seemed premature since both of Sandler’s immediate pre-Nicky flicks – 1999’s Big Daddy and 1998’s The Waterboy - grossed more than $160 million. However, Nicky only took in about $39 million, and the stench of that flop started to become overwhelming.

While 2002’s Mr. Deeds didn’t totally silence Sandler’s critics, it certainly put him back in a positive light. The movie raked in a fairly decent $125 million in the US. That figure didn’t light up the charts; as of October 18, 2002, it stands at 12th on the list of the year’s biggest moneymakers, and with many blockbusters yet to come, it will surely drop well below that spot. Nonetheless, $125 million still seemed like a nice piece of change, and it definitely set Sandler back on the right path.

Actually, the film marked a nice recovery for Sandler in non-financial ways as well. Both Nicky and Big Daddy offered fairly crummy films, and The Waterboy seemed only sporadically entertaining. While Deeds didn’t provide stellar Sandler, it came across as decidedly more engaging and amusing than the actor’s last few efforts.

A remake of the 1936 Frank Capra flick Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the 2002 Deeds starts with images of billionaire adventurer Preston Blake (Harve Presnell). Despite his octogenarian status, Blake remains remarkably active, and he climbs to the top of Mt. Everest during a storm that scares the others from the summit. Alas, Blake never returns, as he becomes frozen at the top of the mountain.

Blake leaves no will, so a search for an heir ensues. Eventually they locate Longfellow Deeds (Sandler), a pizzeria owner in tiny Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire. Blake was his mother’s uncle, so Deeds stands to inherit the man’s entire $40 billion empire. Slick corporate executive Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher) wants to get Deeds to quickly sell his stock possessions, obviously for his own nefarious but initially unrevealed ends. Deeds seems amenable to this prospect, and he accompanies Cedar and his assistant Anderson (Erick Avari) on a trip to New York to seal the deal.

Given Blake’s wealth and fame, the story about his heir becomes big news, and Cedar wants to keep things a secret. However, tabloid TV host Mac McGrath (Jared Harris) sets his team onto it, and Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) really needs to get the scoop. She manipulates Deeds to think she’s actually Pam Dawson, a virginal school nurse from the Midwest. She plans to cozy up to Deeds to get footage of him and become a bigger TV hotshot.

From there the movie follows a number of predictable plotlines. Will Babe/Pam eventually fall for Deeds? Will he discover the truth of her alleged attraction to him? Will he find out about Cedar’s true plans for the company? I don’t like to offer spoilers, so I won’t comment, but don’t expect anything too surprising from Deeds.

That doesn’t mean the movie fails to offer its own pleasures, however. For one, it features a very nice cast. Sandler seems to inspire a lot of invective from critics, but I’ve never understood the abuse. He does what he does very well, and there’s often a cleverness in his work that many seem to ignore. Sandler does best when he plays simple guys, and this serves him well in Deeds. Actually, I prefer Sander with some malice and mischief ala Billy Madison; Deeds seems a little toothless and too plain at times. Nonetheless, the actor brings an easy-going charm to the role.

John Turturro earned the best notes from critics for his sneaky, sneaky performance as Emilio the butler, and he deserves that praise. He doesn’t get much screentime, and the part seems thinly written, but Turturro invests Emilio with a wonderfully sly comic energy.

Perhaps because her retail escapades occupy her current public profile, Ryder received little credit for her work as Babe/Pam, but I thought she did a nice job. She adopts the appropriate sense of nastiness for Babe – at least during the early scenes – and brings out a fun tone of faux innocence as Pam. She plays up the differences to good comic effect; those modes make Deeds look stupid for not noticing her game, but they create a lot of amusing moments, so they serve the film well.

In addition, I can’t recall the last time Ryder looked quite this hot. Back in the Heathers days, I thought she was quite the dish, but my ardor waned over the years. Now I can remember why she boiled my potatoes back then – ooh la la!

Deeds provides a few cameos. One comes from John McEnroe, and it’s absolutely hilarious. On the other hand, we see Reverend Al Sharpton, and I definitely could have lived without him. I guess you have to take the bad with the good.

That goes for all of Mr. Deeds. To be sure, the movie flails at times. It suffers from inconsistent pacing, and some of its gross-out humor – like a gag involving Deeds’ frostbitten foot – feel out of place here. Nonetheless, the film generally provides a winning and occasionally warm experience. It tosses in just enough goofy humor and sweetness to offer a likeable piece of work.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus B

Mr. Deeds appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although a few defects knocked the picture below “A” level, for the most part it provided a solid presentation.

Sharpness seemed terrific. The movie always appeared crisp and well defined, as I noticed virtually no instances of softness or fuzziness. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no issues, but I did see a smidgen of edge enhancement at times. Though not pervasive, I also witnessed more print flaws than I’d expect of a recent flick. Some light grain showed up during the movie, and I detected a few speckles and some grit.

Colors presented a highlight of the image. The movie used a fairly naturalistic palette, and the DVD replicated those tones well. The hues seemed lively and vibrant, as they remained clean and distinct at all times. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately dense but not overly opaque. Ultimately, the picture of Mr. Deeds generally looked excellent.

A few problems also negatively affected the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Mr. Deeds, but it showed some surprising strengths. The soundfield seemed more active than I expected for a romantic comedy. The forward domain dominated the affair, but not to the anticipated degree. In the front, the music showed good stereo imaging, and effects blended together nicely. Those elements moved well across the channels and meshed together seamlessly.

As for the surrounds, they contributed solid reinforcement and added some unique audio when appropriate. From the opening scenes on Mt. Everest to shots with helicopters to echoes and the pinging of tennis balls, the rear speakers contributed a positive sense of atmosphere. Again, this soundfield won’t win any awards, but it seemed more involving than I expected from a film of this genre.

Audio quality generally matched what I thought we’d get, though speech showed some concerns. While not a pervasive problem, more than a few lines displayed edginess. Generally, shouted material demonstrated this issue, and it popped up periodically. Otherwise, dialogue appeared acceptably warm and natural, and intelligibility never became a concern. Effects sounded clear and detailed, and they displayed no signs of distortion. Music proved to be vibrant and lively, as the score and songs sounded clean and rich. Overall, I liked the soundtrack of Mr. Deeds.

On this DVD release of Mr. Deeds, we find a mix of extras. These start with an audio commentary from director Steven Brill and writer Tim Herlihy, both of whom sat together from this running, screen-specific piece. Although I missed hearing Sandler razz Herlihy ala the Little Nicky track, this one offered a very lively and informative commentary. The two men virtually never ceased speaking, and they kept the tone light and funny. They cracked on each other as they related lots of good notes about the flick. They discussed changes from the original film, working with the actors, alterations made to the script, and plenty of nice anecdotes from the set.

Frankly, I didn’t expect much from the Deeds commentary. During Nicky, other than Sandler’s rude remarks to Herlihy, it didn’t offer much info, and the writer rarely spoke. The Deeds track offered a much more balanced and useful piece that remained active and amusing as well.

In the Deleted Scenes area, we get six excised clips. Presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, each of these runs between 19 seconds and 48 seconds for a total of two minutes, 58 seconds of footage. Nothing major appears here, but some of the bits seem surprisingly funny and probably should have made the final cut of the film.

Next we move to the “Featurettes” domain, which includes three separate programs. From Mandrake Falls to Manhattan runs 18 minutes and 20 seconds and provides the standard mix of shots from the set, movie clips, and interviews. We get remarks from actors Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher, Allen Covert, Al Sharpton and John Turturro, director Steven Brill, writer Tim Herlihy, director of photography Peter Collister, production designer Perry Blake and producer Sid Ganis. Though promotional as a whole and awfully puffy at times, “Manhattan” offers enough useful notes to merit a look. We get some quick comparisons between this flick and the 1936 original and also see some interesting outtakes, like one in which Covert got knocked unconscious. Overall, it remains an unexceptional program, but it seems better than most from the genre.

Spare No Expense looks at the sets and locations of Deeds. The six-minute and 29-second program uses the same presentation as “Manhattan”; its interviews include Brill, production designer Blake, art director Steve McCabe, director of photography Collister, and producer Ganis. Despite its brevity, the program packs a lot of good material. It goes over the major elements and provides some insight into these design issues.

The “Featurettes” area ends with Clothes Make the Man, a six-minute and 44-second piece that examines the wardrobe of Deeds. It mainly combines shots from the flick plus interviews with costume designer Ellen Lutter, Sandler, Ryder, Gallagher, Turturro and Brill. Since Deeds isn’t a period costume drama, one wouldn’t think much about its clothes, which actually makes this program more compelling than one might expect. Since the outfits seem so simple, I find a discussion of why those chose what they did to be pretty compelling, and this short featurette provides a nice little look at that area.

After this we see a music video for “Where Are You Going” from Dave Matthews Band. A fairly standard mix of lip-synched performance and movie clips, it offers nothing particularly compelling. The outtakes reel also follows the expected route, as it packs the typical flubbed takes and on-the-set goofiness in this 101-second piece.

Filmographies includes entries for director Brill, writer Herlihy, and actors Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro and Peter Gallagher. Deeds Greeting Cards offers animated versions of six of these missives. Narrated by Sandler, they seem moderately amusing.

From the main menu, we can go to a section of theatrical trailers. This area includes the promo for Mr. Deeds as well as ads for the animated Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, Master of Disguise, Men in Black II and I Spy.

Folks with DVD-ROM drives will get a little more Deeds fun. The prime component here gives us a “Screen to Script”. As usual, this places the movie on the left side of the screen and the text on the right. It’s nothing exceptional, but it’s interesting to compare the script to the finished product.

Another area allows you to send greeting cards over the Internet. Composed in the Deeds style, this offers a moderately pleasant addition to the package. Otherwise, we only find some weblinks. We get connections to Columbia-Tristar Home Entertainment, adamsandler.com, the official movie website, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

With Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler got himself back on the comedy map. Though not a great film, it seemed better than most critics indicated, and it certainly topped Sandler’s last few flicks. The DVD offered generally positive picture and sound plus a pretty nice roster of extras. Sandler fans should find themselves very pleased with this amusing movie and fine DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2452 Stars Number of Votes: 53
4 3:
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