Billy Madison (1995)

“At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Justin’s Rating: Thus the Plague of Sandler was unleashed upon the world

Justin’s Review: Here’s a Billy Madison-related story: I had a friend in Colorado who was a cool guy, even though he majored in phys ed in college. The only major fault I could see in him is that the only movie genre he liked, if I could classify it as such, “Idiotic Comedies Starring Adam Sandler.” Seriously, those were the ONLY movies he’d buy, watch, force his wife to memorize, etc. Now, I’m a guy who is a proponent of films that feature chainsaw-flinging dummies and killer tomatoes, so I wasn’t too critical of him. But, geeze! Branch out already!

My relationship with Adam Sandler movies began with this film, and it wasn’t a good start. I found Billy Madison to be incredibly irritating, much like driving a car on a long trip with a kid constantly kicking your seat for 3000 miles, with that kid being Adam Sandler. I swore off all future Sandler projects and refused to be like the common peasant, quoting Billy Madison lines left and right. I was a CRUSADER against an unholy cause, and by gum, I would triumph!

But then I had to go to class.

Eventually, I softened up. Yeah, sure, Adam Sandler can go from supremely annoying (Little Nicky) to supremely sappy (The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy). And if you haven’t had a movie moment where you’ve wanted to steal a DeLorean and make sure Sandler’s parents never met, then you’re just not right in the head. So while I will continue to sympathize with people that truly march against the (literally) son of Satan, I have to contend that some of his works (like Billy Madison) are kinda funny. Not for lack of Sandler trying to wreck it, of course.

Billy Madison’s paper-thin plot is about the titular character who has to go through all twelve grades of school (two weeks at a time) in order to be deemed worthy of receiving his father’s hotel business. Billy’s just… well, let’s just say that you really expect to see the large dent in his skull that causes him to act the way he does. When he speaks in his lisping baby talk, feel lucky, ’cause at least he’s not doing the gibberish act. About 70% of the time, Billy is a guy who no sane person could honestly stand. But just when you think he’s irredeemable, there are a few scenes that he inexplicably pulls out of the jerk phase and does something honestly funny or somewhat humanizing.

This film wouldn’t have any great level of humor without the terrific and bizarre supporting cast. It makes Billy’s idiot act easier to swallow when you compare him to a raging bus driver (Chris Farley) who steals kids’ lunches, a kindergarten teacher who smears paste on her face for fun, Norm McDonald being Norm McDonald, and a penguin who appears only in Billy’s drunken haze. Bradley Whitford (West Wing’s Josh), who plays Madison’s nemesis, does a superb job of filling the role of the Comedy Bad Guy while getting in a few genuinely funny moments of his own. It’s all off the road, far into the woods that even the Blair Witch won’t follow, and we need that in comedies. One of the best scenes has Billy absolutely dominating in dodgeball against little kids without holding back one bit. I don’t know why it’s so funny, but seeing a big dumb adult at his intellectual equal among six-year-olds is ooooh yeahhhh…

There is a lot about this film that makes no sense, even for this level of nonsensability. Veronica (Bridgette Wilson) as a love interest is the hardest to swallow. She’s Billy’s third grade teacher, and seemingly the only person who calls Billy on his stupidity. Her feisty nature is welcome until Billy does one, only ONE, nice thing, and suddenly she’s smitten. She has no, NO reason to fall for Billy. She’s already proven her smart and sassy ways, but that defense is penetrated by… what? The fact that Sandler is the only person in her age range during the entire movie? Also, in one scene she’s carrying around a honest-to-God PARASOL! I have never seen in real life a girl carrying a parasol, but there she is, strutting around like something out of Gone With The Wind. I’m still flummoxed.

In the aftermath of my war with Adam Sandler movies, I came to the following compromise: I would watch a Sandler movie no more frequently than every six months. I honestly don’t have the stomach for it. But Little Nicky or no, he’s still a part of my life.

Nancy’s Rating: Give him a break.

Nancy’s Review: I stumbled across Justin’s review of Billy Madison when I was looking up easy quotes to test my friend in our name-that-movie game. I was going to use the one after Adam answered the question and the answer being the dumbest thing ever. And I did. Afterwards, I read all the quotes and giggled. Then I read Justin’s review.

I will agree with Justin that Norm is one of the funnier parts of the movie. But the movie is just… giggledom. It’s simple humor that honestly, I think you need a certain level of intelligence to get. Some of it. I think simple people who love fart jokes and noises would just sit there thinking “…I don’t get it”. But some people get it, and think it’s hilarious. I don’t think all Sandler-related hilarity can be channeled into pure idiocy. There are some moment of comedic timing and witty genius nestled within Sandler movies. And I’m not speaking of the movies where he was just cast; but the typical ‘Sandler’ movie, on the surface they seem a little dumb, but underneath, it’s chuckle-some without being pure genius. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I think Billy Madison is a feel-good gem. Really, I do. As dorky as that sounds, I can pop it in while getting mildly happy without too emotional. Now, The Wedding Singer makes me faaaaaar too happy. The Wedding Singer is a “climb onto of a mountain and get married to the person you love with tears in your eyes, an anthem song playing and streamers! Everywhere!” Whereas with Billy Madison you can just pop in, smile, and it doesn’t alter the course of your day or cause you to elope to someone you just started dating. It’s a “safe” feel-good movie.

It borders on stupid, but sometimes you just really have to turn your brain off. If I may quote Dan, from that episode of Roseanne where Darlene is in the hospital and Becky feels bad because she is more concerned with missing her sleepover than she is Darlene’s health, “Sometimes you can’t think about serious stuff too much, cause your brain will fry up”. Credit goes to Bre for that good comparison which I use more often than she suspects.

Well, it just started raining heavily and I’m in a hill town, so my connection is going to be blown soon. So my final lines — Billy Madison can be full of smiles if you just learn to turn your brain off and be happy when the loser wins!

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