Billy Madison (Adam Sandler) is the selfish obnoxious heir to a multi-million pound hotel chain that was set up by Billy's late mother and his father Brian Madison (Darren McGavin). Billy's father is set to retire soon and opts to leave one of his employees Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford) in charge of his business upon his retirement. Billy objects to this believing that he should be placed in charge of his father's business. Brian doesn't believe that Billy is responsible enough or smart enough to run the business but agrees to give him full control of the business if he can pass grades 1-12 in 24 weeks. Eric wants the business for himself and will stop at nothing to ensure that Billy fails this challenge. Even if you're prepared to ignore the obvious flaws in the plot (a father handing his business over to his selfish and obnoxious son who has no business acumen and has had no prior involvement in running the company merely on the strength of him graduating from school. A teacher falling for a man-child re-running grades 1-12 who is even more immature than the kids who he attends school with) then the film still isn't very good. For the most part it relies on Sandler being in OTT mode and doing his utmost to make his character as irritating as possible. This is great from an 'acting' perspective, but ultimately makes him difficult to endure across the running time. The idea of Sandler graduating 12 years worth of school in a matter of weeks certainly isn't a bad one and perhaps would have worked better if more thought would have been put into the concept. I personally felt that it would have been funnier if the film would have shown more examples of Billy failing and struggling his way through school - I found it perplexing that Billy was portrayed as being rather simple-minded from the outset, but yet the film also represented him as a bit of a smart-ass at times which was puzzling. He seems to get through each school year far too easily and there also seemed to be a big continuity gap as well (at one point he seems to jump about 4 school years in one go!!!!) I also wasn't impressed by the fact that Sandler kept the majority of the focus on him (he has a whole host of children as supporting actors, but gives them absolutely nothing to do). It perhaps would have been better if he'd given a couple of the youngsters more defining roles so that he would have had people that he could have bounced off and built up something more in the way of a rapport with some of the youngsters. It seems rather arrogant and unfair for Sandler to give the rest of the cast so little to do (he clearly thought at this point in his career that he was strong enough to carry this sort of project on his own, but he simply can't and it really shows here). The film also substitutes intelligence and insight in favour of Sandler's overacting to the ninth in a performance that was more irritating than funny. He has a lisp in this film (like his character had in The Waterboy) but in Billy Madison it seems to come and go at will. Naturally with this type of plot there has to be a bad guy and the bad guy here is Eric who stops at nothing to prevent Billy from prevailing at the challenge that he's been set by his father and naturally sets about trying to scupper Billy's chances of succeeding. In this instance it is the head teacher that is used as a plot device as Eric digs some dirt on him (although the reveal here is imaginative it is utterly ludicrous and not even remotely believable). There are also things in here that feel a bit random - such as an impromptu sing-song which felt more at home in a musical and a final act that again was more stupid than funny. The only scene I actually liked was the 'peeing in the pants scene' and that was because that scene actually contained something in the way of pathos and actually had something to say (it's a pity there were not more examples of this in the rest of the film). I also thought Bradley Whitford put in a solid performance as Eric and most of the time I found him fun to watch. However, these are the only real positives I could find in this film. I'm not someone who is normally an 'Adam Sandler' hater (heck I'm one of the few people who defended the first 2 Grown Ups films), but Billy Madison is really lame and relies far too much on Sandler mugging and being OTT which unfortunately isn't enough to carry the film or make it worth watching.
In order to inherit his fed up father's hotel empire, an immature and lazy man must repeat grades 1-12 all over again.
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April 16, 2019