"Billy Madison" looks as if it were made to fill the void left by Pee-wee Herman. We never needed Pee-wee more.
Adam Sandler plays Billy Madison, a spoiled rich nudnik who stands to inherit the family business from his hotel tycoon father (Darren McGavin)--except Madison Sr. seems to think his jerky scion isn't up to it. For one thing, the only reason he graduated public school is because his father paid off the teachers. So, unless Billy can repeat grades 1 through 12 in 24 weeks, the business will revert to the business' scuzzball vice president (Brad Whitford).
Repeating public school as an adult is a well-worn movie fantasy and "Billy Madison" rings no new changes. Director Tamra Davis and screenwriters Sandler and Tim Herlihy scatter the bad jokes like fertilizer. Nothing sprouts. As a comic actor, Sandler has a bad habit of thinking he's funnier than we do--although he's not aiming very high here. He's trying to be the King of the Peepee and Doodoo jokes. Worse, he isn't.
Actors such as Chris Farley, Steve Buscemi, Norm MacDonald and Josh Mostel takes turns trying to blow up this bladder but a whoopee cushion without air can't make a funny sound.
* MPAA rating: PG-13, for language and crude humor. Times guidelines: It includes scatological and mildly risque humor that probably wouldn't be understood by anyone under 8--no, make that 4.
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Adam Sandler: Billy Madison
Darren McGavin: Brian Madison
Bridgette Wilson: Veronica
Bradley Whitford: Eric Gordon
A Universal Pictures presentation of a Robert Simonds production. Director Tamra Davis. Producer Robert Simonds. Executive producer Fitch Cady. Screenplay Tim Herlihy & Adam Sandler. Cinematographer Victor Hammer. Editor Jeffrey Wolf. Costumes Marie-Bylvie Deveau. Music Randy Edelman. Production design Perry Blake. Set decorator Enrico Campana. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.