‘Happy Gilmore (1996)’: Throwback Review- DC’s Take

Who doesn’t enjoy the pleasure of sitting back and watching a good sports comedy? The sub-genre usually works for me since most sports don’t entirely intrigue me, but I love to laugh, and the combination leads to entertainment. This brings us to 1996’s Happy Gilmore. While it doesn’t come close to dethroning Caddyshack as the champion of golf comedies, you can never go wrong with this ace in the hole.

What’s the Story: Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) has always had hockey in his blood ever since he was a kid, but while he can shoot a puck, he’s just not that good of a player. That all changes when he founds a new talent in playing golf, hitting balls yards away (400 yards to be exact). So, to save his grandmother (Frances Bay)’s house from being repossessed, he joins the PGA Tour to win big and beat the tournament leader Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald).

Dennis Dugan directed this and marks the first of many collaborations with Sandler in the main lead. While everything afterward reaches a new low for the genre (with the minor exception of Big Daddy), I think everyone will agree Happy Gilmore is the best to come from his filmography. The sole reason is that it makes you laugh and most consider this one of Sandler’s best.

Our lead star follow-up with another cult favorite from Universal Pictures in Billy Madison, and this was released after being fired from SNL. For me, this was the beginning of his movie career with a role made for him. You gotta give it to Sandler’s performance as the title character that might get obnoxious, but instantly want to see him win. You can see the driving passion he has for hockey, now he uses those skills to transfer over to playing golf, for better or worse. Happy is a simple person to root for, even when he goes for that exceptional golf wing that would be impossible to replicate in actual life. What most must not know is that a childhood friend of Sandler who played golf regularly inspired the character.

Those who find the sport boring will find this energetically pleasing when the characters are out on the grass and playing the game. When I was a teenager, I kind of got into golf to where I used to have a set of golf clubs, but I think it went away after Tiger Woods’ downfall. Besides that, I think this movie is one reason the sport grew in popularity with the younger crowd. But the golf action was exciting to watch with Happy progressing with each passing game played. We see him as the unlikely underdog in this field that others can feel to get behind.

Even after 25 years, I don’t know how anyone cannot find this funny. Watching this again made me miss the good Adam Sandler humor, and while they offer dumb jokes, you can’t help but find it hilarious upon them. I believe Billy Madison is funnier and more quotable, but that doesn’t mean the lines in here aren’t memorable as well. I mean, who can forget:

  • “Hey, why don’t I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What’d ya say?”
  • You little son of a b-h ball! Why you don’t you just go HOME? That’s your HOME! Are you too good for your HOME? ANSWER ME! SUCK MY WHITE A-S, BALL!
  • “I eat pieces of s–t like you for breakfast.” “You eat pieces of s–t for breakfast?” “No!”

And it’s a good thing Sandler has a supporting cast to back him up in their scenes together. Who could forget Christopher McDonald as the smug Shooter McGavin, a comedic antagonist that doesn’t get mentioned much anymore. Here’s a surprising fact: McDonald turned down the role twice when it didn’t want to be another villain and Kevin Costner was considered but did another golf-related film Tin Cup instead. Julie Bowen still looks the same 13 years before Modern Family as Happy’s love interest Virigina Venit, and they both had pretty good chemistry. I’ve always adored the relationship between the late Frances Bay and Sandler as grandmother and grandson. And I can’t leave out Carl Weathers as Chubbs Peterson, a pro golfer who had his hand bitten off by an alligator. Because who’s better to be a mentor to Happy than Apollo Creed himself?

You don’t go into a movie like this expecting to be the most intelligent thing ever when Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy might’ve wasn’t going toward that route. This is not to be taken seriously when there’s a hilarious and iconic fight between Happy and Bob Barker, which said increased rating for The Price is Right from college viewers and won the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight. The story doesn’t carry around surprise when it’s pretty straightforward. Still, we’re lucky to talk about this positively after all these years.

Final Thoughts: Happy Gilmore is played out as a stupid and predictable golf comedy, but you have to admit it makes you laugh, and it’s always been in my mind. Sandler’s performance would not win any major awards, but longtime fans will have fun with one of the actor’s best in his career. Just turn your brain off and have this on the improve your day. Grade: B

Happy Gilmore Movie Poster

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