Making the Grades
When a pair of corporate moguls arrives at Longfellow Deeds' (Adam Sandler) small town pizzeria informing him of a $40 billion inheritance, the shop owner barely misses a beat while reading poetry to his customers. At the businessmen's persistent instance, the trusting Deeds finally agrees to return to New York City and "sign a few papers," unaware of their plan to prevent the simpleton from meddling in executive management.Avoiding media attention, Deeds is whisked to the top of his late uncle's penthouse apartment, where he meets Emilio (John Turturro) the butler. But the common sense Deeds turns out to be a tougher character than the board of directors was expecting, although his naive nature doesn't protect him from falling into the arms of sleazy reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) who attempts to get Deeds' real story by playing a "damsel in distress".
If it all sounds familiar, perhaps you've seen the original depression era movie, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The 1936 Frank Capra film showed Deeds as a man of down-to-earth sensibilities and thoughtful generosity, with a propensity to throw a quick punch at anyone who made sport of his rural roots. It's this trait that Sandler (who acts as executive producer on the 2002 version) and his team have chosen to exaggerate in an effort to create laughs
Brutally beating a man thought to be a thief, Sandler's Deeds seems to fight more for sport than to right wrongs. He also has some strange quirks not found within his Capra cousin, like when he asks Emilio to repeatedly beat his numbed and frostbitten foot. The extended senseless scene of a fireplace poker whacking Deeds' blackened appendage is just one of many "Why?" moments in the movie.
Sexual topics in Capra's movies were limited to soft-focus kisses, and "darn" pushed the language envelope. Attempting to spoof Capra's original intent, the new Mr. Deeds still attests to having morals and values, but the movie surrounding the man is riddled with profanities and innuendo making it unlikely that many parents will see this remake as a good deed.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Mr. Deeds.
Director Steven Brill says: “It’s nice to see a lead character who is actually decent and not corrupt or morally bankrupt in any way. And on top of that, there’s tons of jokes and funny set pieces and great performances.”
Do you think the character of Mr. Deeds is a positive role model? What is his motivation in punching people? As a whole, do you think the movie is a serious attempt to convey a message about Deeds’ honorable character, or is the lead man simply a foil to provide comedic contrast for the many strange characters surrounding him?
In his autobiography, Frank Capra said: “Beginning with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, my films had to say something. From then on my scripts would integrate ideals and entertainment into a meaningful tale.” Based on this statement, how do you think Capra would react to the new Mr. Deeds?