If “Dumb and Dumber” is cleaning up, why not the equivalent of “Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest?” That seems to be the guiding principle behind Adam Sandler’s first star vehicle, which, after an initial look from committed fans and some youngsters, promises to continue the streak of so-so grades for the current “Saturday Night Live” class at the box office.
Sandler and director Tamra Davis (“CB4”) bring a certain manic energy and no-holds-barred attitude to the proceedings but still feel like they’re stretching sketch material to feature length. Those unfamiliar with Sandler’s antics may also begin to find him annoying sometime between the appearance of the Universal logo and the end of the opening credits.
There are a few bursts of sheer, irresistible idiocy — along the lines of “Wayne’s World” or even “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”– but not enough to sustain the more arid stretches. Taking a page from Jim Carrey’s playbook, Sandler’s madcap character is also constantly demented, to the point where it’s hard to tell, at least at first, whether he’s just a dork or there’s something actually wrong with him.
“Dork” would seem to be the final verdict, as Sandler’s title character is the son of a hotel magnate (Darren McGavin) who slobs around a huge estate with his friends drinking beer, lounging in the pool and staging inane pranks.
When his dad decides to retire, however, Billy — who slid through school on bribes — must pass all 12 grades, two weeks at a time, to prevent his father from leaving the company to an insidious aide (Bradley Whitford) who, of course, seeks to sabotage Billy’s plan.
Sandler (who also scripted, with Tim Herlihy) delivers the expected adult-among-children scenes and, unfortunately, plenty of material on the level of bodily excretions gags and gay jokes directed at the high school principal (Josh Mostel). They tend to obscure some of the more clever bits, such as an impromptu musical number, a swipe at “The Godfather, Part II” and an extended smooch planted by Billy on an 8-by-10 picture of the teacher (Bridgette Wilson) for whom he pines.
Wilson brings a spunky freshness to the thankless task of playing opposite Sandler, who — after supporting roles in the little-seen “Airheads” and “Mixed Nuts”– mugs, struts and sings but never really comes close to acting. Several other performers emulate that summer-camp approach under Davis’ unfettered direction.
Tech credits get passing grades, with the production and set design nicely approximating the pic’s carnival atmosphere. Lensing took place in Toronto, including the imposing venue that stands in for the massive Madison estate.