It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
At one point during the long ordeal of "Mr. Deeds," it is said of the Adam Sandler character, "He doesn't share our sense of ironic detachment." Is this a private joke by the writer? If there's is one thing Sandler's Mr. Deeds has, it's ironic detachment.
Like so many Sandler characters, he seems fundamentally insincere, to be aiming for the laugh even at serious moments. Since the 1936 Frank Capra film "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" was above all sincere, we wonder how this project was chosen; did Adam Sandler look at Gary Cooper and see a role for himself? He plays Longfellow Deeds, pizzeria owner in the hamlet of Mandrake Falls, N.H. The pizzeria is one of those establishments required in all comedies about small towns, where every single character in town gathers every single day to provide an audience for the hero, crossed with a Greek chorus. Nobody does anything in Mandrake Falls, except sit in the pizzeria and talk about Deeds. When he leaves town, they watch him on the TV.
Turns out Deeds is the distant relative of an elderly zillionaire who freezes to death in the very act of conquering Everest. Control of his media empire and a $40 billion fortune goes to Deeds, who is obviously too good-hearted and simple-minded to deserve it, so a corporate executive named Cedar (Peter Gallagher) conspires to push him aside. Meanwhile, when Deeds hits New York, a trash TV show makes him its favorite target, and producer Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) goes undercover, convinces Deeds she loves him, and sets him up for humiliation. Then she discovers she loves him, too late.
Frank Capra played this story straight. But the 2002 film doesn't really believe in it, and breaks the mood with absurdly inappropriate "comedy" scenes. Consider a scene where Deeds meets his new butler Emilio (John Turturro). Emilio has a foot fetish. Deeds doubts Emilio will like his right foot, which is pitch black after a childhood bout of frostbite. The foot has no feeling, Deeds says, inviting Emilio to pound it with a fireplace poker. When Deeds doesn't flinch, Turturro actually punctures the foot with the point of the poker, at which point I listened attentively for sounds of laughter in the theater, and heard none.
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