It only takes one visit to IMDb to realize how truly subjective movie comedy can be. I checked out the site's user rankings of 'Happy Gilmore' in preparation for this review, and comments ranged from "The stupidest movie I've ever seen!" to "The greatest movie comedy of all time!" While 'Happy Gilmore' is nowhere near as bad nor as good as those love/hate comments might suggest, your reaction to the movie will likely hinge entirely on just how much of Adam Sandler's over-the-top comic delivery and relentless slapstick you can take.
I suppose it is safe to say that the plot of 'Happy Gilmore' matters little, but here goes. Gilmore (Sandler) is like the Forrest Gump of golf, only with a temper. He still lives in his grandmother's house, driving golf balls with the clubs of his late, beloved grandpa. He's got talent and heart, but little motivation. But when the IRS moves in on grandma and Gilmore must move out, he hatches a plan to hustle golfers at the local driving range. Quicker than you can say 'Caddyshack,' Gilmore is taken under the wing of old golf pro Chubs Petersen (Carl Weathers), and falls in love with PR girl Virginia Bennett (Julie Bowen). The club's annual tourney is also coming up, with a considerable cash prize that will get grandma's house out of hoc. But Gilmore must do battle with champion golfer Shooter McGavin (Christopher MacDonald), who is the only person standing in the way of victory for Gilmore.
'Happy Gilmore' is, like 'Caddyshack,' one of those movies that is all about the craziness of its characters, not the humor inherent in its situation. Why is Chubs a one-arm golfer whose hand was bitten off by an alligator? Because it's funny, not because it makes sense. And Sandler knows this more than anyone -- he's pretty much made a career out of it. 'Happy Gilmore' was only his second starring big-screen vehicle (after the 1995 sleeper 'Billy Madison') and he seems to be going for broke. Personally, I find a little of his manic mugging goes a long way, but even I couldn't stop myself from laughing at some of his antics here, even when the script was lacking.
My only real reservation with 'Happy Gilmore' -- and I'm probably taking it way too seriously -- is that Sandler has a propensity for picking characters prone to violent outbursts. I know, I know, it is only a comedy. But I remain numb to most slapstick, and don't really understand why people whacking each other is supposed to inherently funny. Perhaps the appeal of Sandler to the masses is that most of his characters all suffer from an intense, barely-containable hostility -- something the "angry white man" of blue collar America can certainly relate to. But because Sandler's commercial appeal has so far largely been to middle-class sensibilities, it is not something I'm really that into. But maybe I'm a hypocrite, too, because I admit to laughing uproariously to the now-infamous scene of Sandler kicking the shit out of Bob Barker. I guess any film that features the violent pummeling of the uber-smug "Price is Right" host can't be all bad?
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Happy Gilmore' debuts on Blu-ray five years after it first bowed on HD DVD. That's some gap! The release is on a Region A/B/C BD25 disc, with no pre-menu content, other than the load screens, due to BD-Live. The menu for this release features full motion video and an audio loop.
This film was made available in Europe on Blu-ray before America from Universal, but the discs are dramatically different. European releases receive a handful of dub and sub options, while the domestic release instead gives us special features. The menus are the same, although the European releases feature pre-menu language prompt screens.
1080p, VC-1, 1.85:1, the story remains the same on the video for 'Happy Gilmore' as the HD DVD technical specs are a match to those of the Blu-ray. In fact, the end result is the same, too. Why the drop in score? In the five years since the red case was released, we've seen plenty and plenty of titles, new and old, hit the high-def formats, and what passed as a 4/5 then just may not hold up today. The picture is still sometimes impressive, though, folks, let's not forget that, and remember there's more to the score than the score itself. Like the following description:
'Happy Gilmore' isn't exactly a consistent release, but it's far more birdies and pars than it is bogeys. Hell, there's even an eagle or two thrown in. Golf talk aside, details are strong, stray hairs and edges pop, textures are solid, the picture is quite sound. Close ups are astounding, while colors are bright and vibrant. All that said, there's some very very light moire, a little bit of noise, and more than a few blips of dirt, with a few scenes having a miniature barrage, as it were. The grass is the clincher, though, as it constantly goes from sharp, where you could see waves and waves of blades, to dull, just a green wash.
'Happy Gilmore' is a solid looking catalog release, and there is nothing worth bitching or kvetching over. It's still worth its high def dollar in the end!
While the video is more of the same, the audio for 'Happy Gilmore' is a step up. A good, solid step up that gives this release a stronger, more robust, ballsy sound.
Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is not perfect. I will never say that. But it is a great improvement, with solid volume spikes, plenty and plenty of bass throttles and roars, proper directionality, and even a bit of movement with the opening puck scenes. The highlight here is the bass, as every single Gilmore drive has a heavy whomp beneath it, every single one, as do other impacts, as well as some thunderously powerful roar in the mini golf earthquake/impossible hole sequence. Dialogue, it's clear, it's fine, but it is second to the thunder down under. Sadly, rear use on this release is minimal and/or sporadic. Soundtrack elements sometimes find their way to the back, and sometimes they don't, and crowds that surround you only make noise in the front. The fact that the ball doesn't move through channels all too often tells you there's still room for improvement.
No matter what, this track proves that Bob Barker packs one hell of a punch, so no matter what, there's always that.
Yes, this film was released on Blu-ray in Europe before it was in America. We have Universal to thank for this, and many other former (and current) HD DVD exclusives being delayed in their release here in their native country. I cannot comment on any country's release other than Germany's, which does not include any of the extras found here. It does have actual disc art, though, which trumps this clear disc blue writing crap we're seemingly stuck with.
'Happy Gilmore' may be a desired title for many, but anyone who bought into the other high-def format may not find much here. An upgrade to lossless audio is a plus, but the rest is same ol', same ol'. Adam Sandler films often age very poorly, and lose steam on repeat viewings, but this little comedy that could has held up nicely over the years, even if the acting sometimes is glaringly subpar and the story sputters and stutters like Porky Pig having a seizure. If you have the red cased release, the upgrade may not be worth the money. If you only have the DVD, you may as well make this the time to finally upgrade.