Billy Madison is a 1995 American comedy film directed by Tamra Davis. It stars Adam Sandler in the title role, along with Bradley Whitford, Bridgette Wilson, Norm Macdonald, and Darren McGavin. The film was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy, and produced by Robert Simonds. It made over $26.4 million worldwide and debuted at number one at the box office. The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics.
The film is about an immature man (Sandler as the title character) who must go back to school in order to earn the right to take over his father's company. Sandler would later form a production company, Happy Madison Productions, named after a combination of this film's title character and Happy Gilmore's.
Billy Madison is the 27-year-old heir to a Fortune 500 company that his father, Brian, has built from the ground-up. He spends his days drinking with friends and creating disturbances across his father's estate. One day, Billy ruins a dinner meeting between his father and his associates by acting obnoxiously. Brian loses confidence in his son and chooses the conniving Eric Gordon as his successor. When Billy begs his father to reconsider his decision, Brian reveals that he secretly bribed Billy's school teachers to give him passing grades. The two finally come to compromise; Billy must complete all 12 grades in two-week intervals to prove he is competent enough to manage the company.
Shortly after enrolling into school, Billy becomes attracted to a teacher named Veronica Vaughn, who initially ignores him. Nevertheless Billy successfully progresses through his first two grades. He finds himself as one of Vaughn's students in the third grade and earns her respect by standing up for Ernie, his friend and classmate. Billy becomes popular among the third graders and misses them as he advances through school. Billy's progress alarms Eric, who becomes increasingly agitated as Billy completes each grade. Eric blackmails Billy's principal, Max Anderson, into claiming that Billy bribed him for passing grades.
Brian swiftly terminates his agreement with Billy and names Eric as his successor. Billy grows distraught and reverts to his care-free lifestyle. Veronica forcefully motivates him to return to school, while his grade-school classmates convince Anderson to retract his bribery accusations. Brian agrees to give Billy another chance but Eric cites that Billy failed the challenge by taking more than two weeks to complete a grade. He then threatens to sue Brian if he does not pass the company onto him. Billy intervenes and challenges Eric to an academic decathlon to finally settle their feud.
Both men excel in different activities but Billy manages to take a single-point lead before the contest's final event, a Jeopardy!-style academic test. Billy stumbles on the opening question in the event, and Eric is given the chance to win the contest by answering a question about business ethics. Eric is unable to withstand the pressure and breaks down. He brandishes a handgun, but Anderson tackles Eric before he can harm Billy. Eric recovers from the attack and attempts to shoot Veronica, but he is in-turn shot by Danny McGrath, a rifle-wielding madman whom Billy apologized to earlier in the film.
The film then moves to a graduation scene where Billy is delivering a speech. Billy announces he will pass the hotel business to Carl Alphonse, one of his father's more polite businessmen, and attend college in order to become a teacher. Eric watches on and fumes in frustration over Billy's decision.
Adam Sandler as Billy Madison,
Darren McGavin as Brian Madison,
Bridgette Wilson as Veronica Vaughn,
Bradley Whitford as Eric Gordon,
Josh Mostel as Principal Max Anderson,
Norm Macdonald as Frank,
Mark Beltzman as Jack,
Larry Hankin as Carl Alphonse,
Theresa Merritt as Juanita,
Jim Downey as Principal/Judge of the "Decathlon",
Hrant Alianak as Pete,
Dina Platias as Ms. Lippy,
Robert Smigel as Mr. Oblaski, science teacher,
Chris Farley as Bus Driver (uncredited),
Steve Buscemi as Danny McGrath (uncredited),
Billy Madison received mixed to negative reviews. On Metacritic, the film has a rare score of 16 based on 13 reviews, stating "overwhelming dislike". On the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 46% review by critics, with a consensus review of "Billy Madison is typical early immature fare from Adam Sandler, even if it finds moments of inspired lunacy".
Richard Schickel panned the film calling it "one of the most execrable movies ever made". Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times commented; "Sandler has a bad habit of thinking he is funnier than we are"." On At the Movies, Siskel and Ebert gave the film thumbs down, and Roger Ebert said of Sandler, "...Not an attractive screen presence, he might have a career as a villain or a fall guy or the butt of a joke, but as the protagonist his problem is he creates the fingernails on the blackboard." Gene Siskel added "... you don't have a good motivation for the character's behavior". Owen Gleiberman also panned the film saying "By the end, you feel like a drill sergeant--you want to wipe that stupid grin off Sandler's face". Rita Kemply of The Washington Post said the film was trying to be "A more kid-friendly version of 'Dumb and Dumber.' And there's even a moral: 'Yahoo for education,' though the movie doesn't really put any muscle behind it."
Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, calling it "It succeeds as a reasonably smart no-brainer. If you've ever had a yen to relive the third grade, this must be the next best thing." Brian Lowry of Variety also gave the film a mixed review, saying "There are a few bursts of sheer, irresistible idiocy--long the lines of 'Wayne's World' or even 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure'--but not enough to sustain the more arid stretches."
Billy Mowbray of Film4 gave the film a positive review, writing: "When you get that Sandler's comedic persona is meant to be annoying, like Beavis and Butthead or Cartman, the laughs come thick and fast". Kevin N. Laforest said, "Okay, the plot is inane, but it's the basis of a series of really funny scenes."
Awards and nominations:
MTV Movie Award
Adam Sandler: Best Comedic Performance,
Songs featured in the film:
"I'll Tumble 4 Ya" by Culture Club,
"Beat on the Brat" by The Ramones,
"ABC" by The Jackson 5,
"I'm Not the One" by The Cars,
"The Stroke" by Billy Squier,
"Telephone Line" by Electric Light Orchestra,
"Renegade" by Styx
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license