In Short: Adam Sandler's worst film gets a very good DVD edition from Tristar.
"Wow". That's the only word that could come to mind after walking out of Adam Sandler's latest film. Not a "good" wow, either. I really don't mind a lot of Sandler's films and actually, I really liked "Happy Gilmore." This film though, is simply awful. The film tries to combine both the toilet humor of Sandler's other films as well as the charm of Sandler's "Wedding Singer" and completely, totally fails on both counts.
The plot(if you'd like to call it one) is that Sandler plays Sonny Koulfax, a 32 year old law school grad who has done absolutely nothing with his life. He won a settlement after being hit by a cab and now sits around his apartment, working as a tollbooth collector one day per week. He finds himself in the middle of fatherhood when the previously unknown child of his roommate is dropped off at his doorstep. To impress his girlfriend and show her how responsible he can be, he decides to pretend to be the father. He then proceeds to realize how hard parenting can be and want to give up the kid, then wants to get him back again, then wants to give him up again, and it all grows very tiresome.
The first half of the film contains some fairly funny moments, until we begin to realize that the film has only four or five jokes at it's disposal, and that it plans to use them, beat them into the ground, stomp on them a bit and then try and clean them up so that they can sneak in another version of that same old joke again before the film wraps. Sandler was at his best playing the screaming, temper tantrum that was Happy Gilmore, because at least that character had some edge, an energy. And as angry as Gilmore got, it was all in the name of comedy, in other words, "it's just a joke, guys." In "Big Daddy", Sandler seems utterly bored throughout and when he tries to be outrageous(he and the kid pee on the wall of a restaurant, he screams when McDonalds stops serving breakfast and he tries to trip skaters in the park), it just seems disturbing.
Even more disturbing is the choice to have Sandler try to "act". His attempts at sincerity are somewhere between pitiful and simply embarassing. It doesn't help that the film feels the need to add melodramatic music during these moments either- it just makes it far worse. Thankfully, Joey Lauren Adams("Chasing Amy") is onhand, but the film makes just one of many bad choices by not giving her much of a role at all; she's simply onhand to smile at Sandler, but there is a spirit about her character that seems at least in reality in a film that doesn't seem to know what alternate version of reality it's floating in. The subplot of the romance between Sonny and Layla(Adams) feels added on at the final moments, and doesn't come nearly as close to being as entertaining as Barrymore and Sandler in "Singer". It's not the fault of Adams, who deserves far, far better films than this. And John Stewart, who is normally not a bad actor, acts as if he's in the middle of a TV Movie Of The Week, trying to be overly dramatic with each of his few moments.
The film seems endless, as if enough wasn't already wrong. Minutes go by as if they're the longest of hours. The twins who star as Julian(the kid who ends up on Sonny's doorstep) are good little actors, but practically all the film calls upon the kid to do is pee. That's the running joke, the kid pees everywhere. Funny once, not funny the millionth time the film presents it. The only funny part of the film having to do with the child is how entertained he is when Sonny gets hurt- to make the kid stop crying, he throws himself in front of a car- and the kid starts laughing - more scary than funny. Sandler's character also uses various foul language around the kid throughout and when the kid begins to repeat it, instead of being "shocking" and "funny", it just seems forced, stale and the jokes just fail each time out.
"Big Daddy" tries to blend a lot of the elements that made Sandler's previous films so successful, but the almost standing still nature of the film's pace makes it all feel stale, manipulative and completely lacking in charm. A lot of films like Sandler's previous ones just bounce along and are over before you even have time to really consider their faults; they're just an hour and a half of basic entertainment. "Big Daddy" simply goes so slowly, all of the faults become as sharp as the picture on the screen at your local theater.
As I said before, I don't mind a lot of Sandler's stuff- I certainly liked "Happy Gilmore." But this film tries to continue the mission he started with the "Wedding Singer"; try to drag Sandler a little further towards becoming an actor, and to be honest, it's a major miscalculation. The first half contains a few laughs, but the second half of the film is completely empty- there's almost nothing going on, and to top it off, the way the film ends is a weakly done payoff of a larger, entirely worse film.
The film doesn't even know how to use the best item it has: the New York scenery. Cinematography, aside from a few moments, is pretty generic and uninteresting. A lot of this film doesn't even look good and that's suprising- it certainly had a decent sized budget. Most of the money seems to have gone to paying Sandler. It's a 60 million dollar film that takes place, for the most part, in an apartment. Hopefully, Sandler will go back to the old material that "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore" had in large amounts. Those films had their funny moments(especially Gilmore) and even though they were silly, toilet-humor based and filled with foul language, they work far better than "Big Daddy" does.
VIDEO: Very strong anamorphic transfer from Tristar in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Images are very clean, clear and although not quite razor sharp, definitely nicely defined, with good detail. Colors are strong and vibrant throughout, especially on the streets of New York City. Shots of the apartment look quite good as well, capturing the light flowing in through the window. The image is very consistent throughout the presentation, with contrast and flesh tones looking fine throughout. Again, it's the shots of the NYC streets that fare best, with scenes like where Sandler is carrying the boy past a wall filled with graffiti. The colors are excellent, and look impressive on this and many other scenes in the city. Even the nighttime scenes contain a very good amount of visual information.
There's really none of the usual flaws; no pixelization or aliasing and no marks on the print. After a little bit of a dropoff from Tristar with "Arlington Road", they're definitely back in form on this disc. Those who enjoyed this flick will definitely be pleased. A full-frame edition is also included on this disc.
SOUND: Pretty much the definition of basic audio- the normal from most recent comedies. But of course, what do you really expect from a movie where the majority of the film centers around two people yelling at each other in an apartment? The score, full of alternative rock bands like Garbage, is pretty much the highlight of the audio on "Big Daddy". Dialogue sounds clear and strong, with no problems.
MENUS: The usual from Tristar; basic menu art from the film- easily navigated, but not much else.
HBO First Look: Big Daddy: The "making-of" documentary that first appeared on HBO. It's kinda funny- Sandler, Rob Schneider and the two kids sit around for most of the documentary talking about what goes on in the film. Other than that, the rest of the documentary is mainly clips from the movie and interviews with the cast and crew. Nothing too impressive or too informative, it's the usual "Hollywood" featurette, seemingly almost half of the running time taken up by clips from the movie and the other half is interviews with the cast talking about just how good each other is in the movie. "First Look" runs about 12 minutes.
Music Videos: "Sweet Child Of Mine" by Sheryl Crow and "When I Grow Up" from Garbage.
Trailers: Trailer for "Big Daddy"(Full-Frame/5.1), Teaser for "Big Daddy"(1.85:1/5.1), Trailer for "Go"(1.85:1/5.1), Trailer for "Dick"(Full-Frame/5.1), "Ghostbusters:15th Anniversary Edition"(Full-Frame/2.0
Final Thoughts: My least favorite of Sandler's movies, but Tristar has certainly done a nice job on this DVD. Technically, the disc itself is nicely done. It's just the movie itself I didn't care for.
The Film: 65/D = (325/500 possible points)
Video 92/A = (368/400 possible points)
Audio: 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Extras: 80/B- = (240/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 86/B = (258/300 possible points)