“Happy Gilmore” is one of Adam Sandler’s stronger studio comedies. During the 90s Sandler seemed completely intent on goofing off to the maximum; the results often overpoweringly childish and stale. “Happy Gilmore” is certainly no more mature or nuanced a work, but it does offer a respectable gag rate and a surprisingly engaging underdog story. Directed energetically by Sandler cohort Dennis Dugan, “Happy Gilmore” may not be intelligent filmmaking, but it would be unfair to suggest it isn’t funny.Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is an aspiring hockey player with a terrific shot but lousy skating abilities. As a result he can’t make the team in tryouts and spends his days pursuing a dream that will very likely never come to be. When his grandmother’s (Frances Bay) house is repossessed by the IRS, Happy has to find some money fast; an unusual opportunity arriving when golf coach Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers) observes the extent of Happy’s power. Initially Happy isn’t interested in golf, but when the cash start rolling in he begins to take the sport seriously; especially when tour loudmouth Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) treats the fiery upstart as a threat to his own championship campaign.
Sandler’s manic routine is perfect for “Happy Gilmore”, it’s nothing you haven’t seen the comedian do before but here he does it stunningly well. Few performers (comic or otherwise) could make a blatantly smug and vaguely psychotic leading man into a likable screen presence, but Sandler does it with aplomb. Being aided by such a competent supporting cast is a big help. Christopher McDonald isn’t usually a name I want to see on a marquee, but here he creates a gem of a douchebag in Shooter McGavin. It’s possibly McDonald’s insurmountably arrogant and ignorant turn that allows the audience to warm toward Happy so heartily. Frances Bay is good fun as Happy’s cute but weird Grandmother whilst Ben Stiller and Bob Barker (playing himself) pop up in highly amusing cameos. The love arc involving Julie Bowen’s golfing PA is listless and dull (much like the actresses’ performance) but other supporting players generously compensate.The story is obvious but the script is deliciously silly and never once does the venture take itself too seriously. “Happy Gilmore” combines the juvenile irreverence of multiple Sandler efforts with some smashing jokes and an agreeable 92 minute running time. The denouement isn’t hard to foresee but the movie never tries to cloak its gently mocking sporting template; instead rushing headfirst into the realms of comedic anarchy. I’m also going to acknowledge that “Happy Gilmore” was making sports commentator gags well before “Dodgeball” took the idea to delirious new heights in 2004. “Happy Gilmore” is undeniably idiotic, but hey, sometimes the brain wants to see a grown man wrestling a crocodile. It’s not exactly a genre classic, but it is a whole heap of fun.