When audiences first viewed Steve Martin as a wild and crazy guy, cavorting like King Tut or playing a banjo with a fake arrow through his head, did they think he'd ever go on to appear in critically acclaimed films such as "The Spanish Prisoner" or "Roxanne?"
Or how about Robin Williams and his first role as Mork from Ork? He's since won an Oscar out of four nominations. Then there's Tom Hanks -- would anyone have imagined upon first seeing him dressed in drag so many years ago that the former star of "Bosom Buddies" would ultimately receive four Oscar nominations, let alone two victories for his subsequent work?
Yes, most comedians who started with goofy shenanigans as their hook or act have come to the realization that they must eventually "grow up" if they wish to survive in Hollywood and continue acting. Those who don't are often soon abandoned by their audience who then begin looking for someone more age appropriate to fulfill their goofy behavior quotient.
Comedian Adam Sandler appears to be at that transitional point in his career. While it's too early to tell whether he'll follow his predecessors and ever achieve Oscar greatness (before you scoff, don't forget Williams and Hanks' early material), this former "Saturday Night Live" regular, who turns thirty-three this year, has begun the change.
While he still does the goofy "clown" bit -- such as in last year's surprise hit, "The Waterboy" -- his appearance in "The Wedding Singer" and his latest release, "Bid Daddy," clearly show that he's starting to make that transition to less juvenile roles. Although this film won't garner him any rave critical reviews for his thespian efforts, it's clear that Sandler sees the writing on the walls.
Of course he's not yet ready to jettison his core audience -- teen and twenty-something males -- and this film has plenty of sophomoric and/or crude humor to more than appease them. Nonetheless, for all the urination-related jokes, there's just as much charm and decent romantic comedy material to entertain those who won't bust a gut over pee and vomit gags or seeing people wipe out while in-line skating.
Yes, Sandler's playing it safe by offering equal doses of stupid and silly stuff with a more subdued and -- dare we say it? -- mature material. The combined effect, while not exactly what one would call congruous, does keep the hearty laughs and more subdued grins coming, and that's not such a bad thing.
It's unfortunate, however, that the screenplay -- penned by Sandler along with screenwriters Tim Herlihy ("The Waterboy," "The Wedding Singer") and Steve Franks (making his writing debut) -- isn't more substantial or simply better than it is.
As such, it's often rather disjointed and uses several music montages to "connect the dots" or act as filler (more than one occurrence of that per film is usually a sign of trouble and/or floundering) Fortunately, it does offer some laughs, however, and a decent one involves a running gag about newspapers being Sonny's chosen solution for dealing with most problems -- but most of the bigger laughs come from the juvenile bits that have made Sandler so popular with his fans over the years.
That said, the script lacks any true cleverness (like the "Austin Power" films from fellow "SNL" alum Mike Myers) or an aggressive comedic bite (like "There's Something About Mary") to really make it stand out.
It simply moves from point a to b, although often in a haphazard fashion, particularly as the conclusion draws near. As such, it really offers little more than a simple, "what you see is what you get" approach to storytelling and doesn't seem particularly concerned that the scenes are often more episodic than congruous in nature.
While the basic plot is rather predictable and just a variation on the material found in "Mr. Mom" -- a guy suddenly having to deal with kids with no knowledge of how to do that -- it's Sandler's performance that lifts the picture above mediocrity. Notwithstanding our earlier statements, Sandler's acting abilities do seem to be somewhat limited -- here he does his "serious" and ready to shout at any moment character -- but his goofy charm more than makes up for any thespian deficiencies.
This is particularly evident when he's doing the romantic comedy bit, an effort that worked quite well in "The Wedding Singer" playing off Drew Barrymore. His leading lady here is the gorgeous and vivacious Joey Lauren Adams ("Dazed and Confused") who easily was the highlight of "Chasing Amy."
While her part here is much smaller, she's got that killer, room brightening smile that lights up the screen whenever she flashes it. As such, the scenes between her and Sandler are charming and a heck of a lot of fun to watch. In particular, the moment where their improvised bedtime story for the young boy turns into a flirtatious "can I asked you out/I'll have to think about" scene is clearly the film's best moment.
As that five-year-old, twins Cole & Dylan Sprouse (TV's "Grace Under Fire") are appropriately cute. While they've perfected that sad and lost little boy demeanor, it's fortunately not irritating, but will certainly break your heart.
The rest of the film's performances, including those from Jon Stewart ("The Faculty") and Leslie Mann ("George of the Jungle") are decent, but not particularly memorable, although there is a fun bit by Rob Schneider (another "SNL" alum) as Sonny's immigrant friend.
Lightweight and fluffy stuff, the film has some fun moments and a few big laughs, but is instantly forgettable after seeing it. While the sentimental material never quite works and Sandler's big, concluding dramatic moment feels a bit too forced, his core audience of fans will probably enjoy this film as much as his past offerings. Although I didn't find it as entertaining as "The Wedding Singer" the film succeeds at generating enough laughs to earn a moderately passing grade. As such, "Big Daddy" gets a 5.5 out of 10.