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Review: No-good 'Deeds' should be punished

Capra, Cooper rolling over in their graves

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By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- The 1936 Frank Capra film "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town" was corny and hokey. Indeed, it was the perfect embodiment of "Capra-corn" -- a derogatory term that followed the legendary director throughout his career. But it was also whimsical and somewhat charming, due in large part to the talents of Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.

On the other hand, the dismal remake "Mr. Deeds," directed by Steven Brill and starring Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder, has no charm or whimsy, and to call it corny gives corn a bad name.

The story structure is basically the same as the original. Sandler stars as Longfellow Deeds, who goes by his unassuming last name alone: not Mr. Deeds, not Longfellow Deeds, just plain Deeds -- he's humble, you see. He lives a simple life in Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire, where he owns the local pizza parlor and makes Hallmark-type greeting cards as a hobby.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, down in the big, bad city, his late billionaire great-uncle Preston Blake has left him a business empire worth $40 billion. Country bumpkin? Billions of dollars? The mean city slickers can't be far behind -- and they're not.

Babes and meanies

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Peter Gallagher (with bushy eyebrows at full mast) plays Chuck Cedar, a corporate mogul with greed on his mind (if that's not redundant). He hatches a plan to buy out the company, break it up, and sell it -- making a handy profit while costing thousands of people their jobs.

The last thing poor Deeds needs is more trouble, but he gets it in the form of the beautiful Babe Bennett (Ryder), a jaded tabloid TV producer for "Inside Access." Posing as a small-town girl working as a school nurse, she seduces Deeds in order to get the inside scoop on his rags-to-riches story.

If you don't see where this one is going, then you need to check your pulse. From here on in it's exactly what you expect, only worse. They fall in love, she's exposed as a fake -- yada, yada, yada.

Redundant sameness

While he's a very funny guy, a little Sandler goes a long, long way. He's always playing the same innocent, fish-out-water character who, despite all odds, wins out in the end. This sameness of material could be due to the fact that six of Sandler's films have been written or co-written by Tim Herlihy, the former head writer of Sandler's training ground, "Saturday Night Live."

Some of those movies have worked. "Happy Gilmore" and "The Wedding Singer" managed to wring laughter out of stupid situations. However, most of their films have been one-joke wonders that have satisfied die-hard Sandler fans, made decent money in their opening weekends, and then faded away -- only to make more money from said die-hards on video and DVD.

You've got to hand it to him -- Sandler does touch a nerve with the 17- to 25-year-old male demographic, the holy grail of Hollywood. And unlike the message of this film, "money isn't everything" -- in Hollywood money is the only thing.

Bottom line: if you're over 25, have an IQ over 90, and have a driver's license, you should be able to find better entertainment than "Mr. Deeds."

"Mr. Deeds" opens Friday. The film is rated PG-13.



 
 
 
 



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