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Mr. Deeds

When can we kill the romantic subplot?

It is very difficult to make a full-length comedy that keeps the audience laughing until the end of the show. There just aren't enough laughs to fill an entire feature-length period of time, and besides, comedy plots are often non-complex and non-compelling; the plot in a comedy is often only a glorified vehicle for jokes, one-liners, and physical comedy.

Enter the romantic sub-plot, which serves to define the comedic protagonist as a real human and a legitimate character. In other words, the romantic sub-plot is often there strictly to make the movie longer. Unfortunately, these forays into romance and love often end in disaster, at least when its litmus test is the audience groaning at cheesy love banter or cringing at poor chemistry.

Mr. Deeds, the new Adam Sandler vehicle, does not stray far from this analysis. The plot is simple: Longfellow Deeds (Sandler) has been named the sole heir of a media billionaire. All of his inheritance is in the form of stock in the media conglomerate. However, said media giant is being run by seedy Chuck Cedar (Peter Gallagher), who wants to break down the company and sell it off. Admittedly, this is strange when one considers the recent bout of merger mania that the communications industry has had. Regardless, Chuck needs to buy Deeds' shares to keep the company under his leadership, and he assumes that Deeds, fresh-off- the-haytruck New Hampshire idiot that he is, will gladly sell his shares for $40 billion dollars.

Enter a sleazy New York Tele-Tabloid, one whose very existence is hell-bent upon blowing the cover on the inheritance and the subsequent ruining of the recipient. But how do they get to the story? Well, once the heir is revealed to be Deeds, it's up to a power-hungry reporter (Winona Ryder) to get the inside scoop, complete with video footage. Deeds, of course, falls in love with the woman Winona is pretending to be, Deeds finds out it is a front, Winona has now fallen for deeds but he can't trust her, and so on. An instant classic in the bad romantic sub-plot genre.

The first forty minutes or so of the movie contain several full-on belly laughs. Classic Sandler, including all the beatdowns and idiocy you've come to expect. However, once Deeds is in New York and the plot starts to "unfold", the story loses steam and the jokes are nearly finished. There is no chemistry between Winona and Sandler, and they certainly differ in their respective deliveries. Winona seems to think that Mr. Deeds is a movie that requires some degree of acting prowess, and it often seems that she's over-acting.

John Turturro is the film's comedic hero, coming in and out of the movie as Emilio the Butler. His role is limited, but he's a constant throughout the film. Also appearing in minor roles are Sandler pals Steve Buschemi and Rob Schneider. And in the hands-down funniest scene in the movie, John McEnroe shows Deeds the New York "that most people don't see."

Overall, the movie is enjoyable, but be warned: once the love story takes precedence, you'll start to grow sleepy. Very sleepy. However, Sandler's performance is his best in some time. Mr. Deeds isn't Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison, but then again, it's thankfully not Little Nicky.

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Mr. Deeds
PG-13
1 hour 36 minutes

Adam Sandler
Winona Ryder
Steve Buscemi
Peter Gallagher
Jared Harris