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Billy Madison: Special Edition

Spoiled man-child Billy Madison re-enrolls in grades 1-12 to prove to his dad that he's not a hopeless screw-up in this hilarious, buoyant, and unfairly lambasted first star vehicle for Adam Sandler. Unlike the often feeble attempts by other Saturday Night Live alumni to parlay their negligible gifts onto the big screen, Madison works because Sandler co-wrote it (along with college pal Tim Herlihy). Although the script sticks to an uninspired formula, its predictable twists and turns are spun off in incredibly bizarre and hilarious fashion. The film is also filled with fine performances, by the likes of veteran Darren Gavin, Bradley Whitford and Bridgette Wilson, and several cameos, including an unbridled performance by the late Chris Farley — his best ever on screen. Sandler, buffoon that he may be, is mostly likable and empathetic, mostly because his comic bits don't come off like an act or a desperate attempt to ignite a catchphrase; the humor, as broad as it is, comes directly from the characters, and straight from their hearts. There is a torrent of imagination and love of comedy on display here. Director Tamra Davis keeps the pace humming and all the scenes bright and colorful, and even when a gag awkwardly fails, the brazen ambition behind it elicits a guilty chuckle. Sandler's acute sense of arrested development provides an affectionate look back at the grade-school milieu. Universal re-releases Billy Madison in this Special Edition, available in a two-pack with Sandler's follow-up Happy Gilmore. The feature is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Davis reflects on the film in a surprisingly engaging commentary track. This disc also includes over half-an-hour of deleted scenes and a typically insufferable gag reel (set to wacky music, no less). Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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