Billy Madison (1995)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce, Gross-Out Comedy  |   Release Date - Feb 10, 1995 (USA)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Assuming top billing for the first time in this willfully stunted comedy, Adam Sandler unleashed the soon-familiar persona that would widely divide moviegoers but provide indisputable results at the box office for years to come. Here was born the debate about whether Sandler is a lowbrow comic genius or a moronic gadfly signifying the end of good taste and intelligence as we know it. For those able to give themselves over to its sophomoric charms, Billy Madison is a knee-slapping celebration of a spoiled idiot who learns decency from a gaggle of children who wet their pants at recess. Sure, Sandler is over the top -- in fact, he's so far over it that it's nowhere in sight. But that's the point in this movie, in which Sandler is essentially the mean-spirited version of Tom Hanks' character in Big, throwing tantrums appropriate to someone of his underdeveloped intellect. It's hard to resist Sandler when he yells, "You blew it!" in his trademark guttural shout after his eight-year-old friend botches a phone conversation with his crush. The reverse shot shows the young boy grinning in spite of himself, suggesting that children accept Sandler as he is, a ridiculous but ultimately harmless clown, and perhaps they're the best judges of character. Those who want Sandler to be something other than an intense, bellowing man-child -- or just wish he would go away -- aren't the intended audience, anyway. Simpatico supporting turns by Norm McDonald, Steve Buscemi, and Chris Farley provide either more giggles for the willing or more ammo for the obstinate.