Adam Sandler yelling at a golf ball

Movie Review: Happy Gilmore (1996) *****

Happy Gilmore is a classic Adam Sandler comedy about an unsuccessful hockey player who turns to golf to save his grandmother’s house. He’s a really bad temperamental match for golf. His fiery moods mean he holds a record for being the only high school hockey player who took off his skate to stab someone. Golf is not sure what to make of a low-class, swearing, punching kind of player.

Yet he has an outstanding slap shot, and he can drive golf balls unimaginable distances. This draws the attention of a golf legend named Chubbs, who urges him to play and hopes to cultivate Happy’s career. Once Happy realizes he can earn enough money to buy his Grandma’s house, he’s not interested in the sustained career part; he just wants to go whack balls until he can get a few oversized checks about it.

Naturally we need a snooty, upper-class heel to serve as Happy’s foil. Here we get a hysterical Shooter McGavin. He believes he “deserves” the win on the tour where Happy butts in. Shooter’s paid his dues and played for his entire life. It’s his turn! But he’s such a dick, he earns Happy’s ire in return. While Happy gets better at golf, Shooter gets worse as a human being, and eventually they meet in the middle.

This is the perfect comedy for, say, a thirteen-year-old audience. It’s a family movie because everyone can laugh and have fun with it. But really, it’s mostly for the young teens. That’s where the titular character’s emotional development stands. Happy’s priorities are also mostly on par (lol) with thirteen-year-olds: taking care of your adorable grandma, punching people who make you angry, and proving everybody wrong.

Don’t come here looking for sophisticated jokes; this is the kind of flick where you’re meant to laugh because it’s just so dang *silly*. I could rattle off jokes for a while. “You’re gonna die, clown!” “The price is wrong, bitch!” “You suck! Jackass!” Truly nothing that’s funny out of context. But in context, with the actors’ delivery, and the generally goofy atmosphere, it’s a complete crack-up.

Although the movie is quite dated now (we’re approaching 30 years), Happy Gilmore is fair timeless. As an example: They textually say his show is The Price is Right, so when Bob Barker says “the price is wrong” and punches Happy, we get the reference regardless. And there is nothing funnier than watching a younger adult like Happy get his ass handed to him by an old man, even if you don’t have pleasant daytime TV associations with Bob Barker.

With a well-structured screenplay that has a few cute surprises and a short runtime for the attention span minimalists, I think Happy Gilmore’s going to remain a classic for generations.

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