1:08 pm
Fri June 28, 2002

Mr. Deeds

Adam Sandler’s remake, “Mr. Deeds,” is hardly Capra,...

In “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” Frank Capra knew how to mix an interesting story with a corny theme about the goodness of the little guy and the corruption of the corporation. Adam Sandler’s remake, “Mr. Deeds,” is hardly Capra, but Sandler’s real-guy persona brings an affectionate Longfellow Deeds back to the screen without as much embarrassment as you’d think.

Really embarrassing, however, is Winona Ryder as the lady trying to pry him from his $40 billion inheritance. An actress of her caliber could be stooping to this vacuous role only to help her growing legal defense against shoplifting charges.

Sandler underplays his role as the rube caught in the corporate machine so that he is at least believable—the plot is absurdly contrived and predictable, but his performance makes you understand his appeal as an everyman without the hint of pretence.

The soundtrack does help you through the silliness: Dave Matthews, Tom Petty, and U2 are among the well-known musicians. Even Sandler covers David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“Mr. Deeds” is saved from oblivion by 2 seasoned performers and goofballs in their own right: John Turturro plays deed’s Butler, Emilio, who is sincere enough to stay by Sandler through the tough times, and eccentric enough to make you love his Spanish accent and passionate devotion.

Steve Buscemi as Crazy Eyes parodies himself, though not as inventively as he did as The Homeless Guy in “Big Daddy.” He stars in the final shot of this film, a pleasure for Corvette buffs and Buscemi fans as well.

The theme of greed works, especially appropriate in the Enron environment, where departing corporate officers fill their pockets with workers’ futures. “Deeds” reminds me of what Oscar Wilde said about greed: “Those who have much are often greedy; those who have little always share.”

My choice for best comedy this summer is Hugh Grant’s “About a Boy.” Mr. Deeds” has not the wit, but it does have a few eccentric performances to make it bearable until the next “Boy” comes around.