Adam Sandler plays more of a grown-up in Happy Gilmore than he did in Billy Madison, but only in the sense that his tantrums are laced with rage and obscenity rather than infantile brattiness. These brusque qualities will further irritate his detractors while giving his fans another generous dollop of the comedian's hyperkinetic schtick. But Happy Gilmore has pleasures beyond the golf-ball-to-the-noggin variety, because it works as a fairly sturdy sports movie that finds the tricky balance of simultaneously mocking golf and glorifying it. That golf and hockey might involve essentially the same skill set, applied quite differently, enables the agreeable premise that a transplant from that aggressive venue might achieve some success with its more genteel cousin, while still keeping the rink's head-butting mentality. Sure, this is mostly just an excuse for vulgar, bone-crunching comedy, but it allows at least one classic episode of absurdism, in which Sandler gets into a trash-talking brawl with Bob Barker, the surprisingly agile 73-year-old game show host. That Happy putts with his hockey stick and launches his golf balls like whizzing cruise missiles (cleverly shot from their accelerating perspective) makes for effective crossover, blending the subtle precision of golf with the electrifying force of hockey, and winning converts to both sports. Still, Sandler himself wouldn't win many converts outside his own fan base until he aimed for a more tepid middle ground in The Wedding Singer.
by Derek Armstrong review