Down Graded Billy
"Billy Madison" proves one thing, when you are young you will laugh at just about any moment of stupidity whether it is funny or not, but as you grow older you look at the movies that once amused you and wonder why. That is how I felt when I watched "Billy Madison" for the first time in 15 years and found myself struggling to laugh at the stupidity which was masquerading as humour. It actually ends up feeling like a test movie, someone saw potential in Adam Sandler allowed him to take the lead and try different things to see what worked and what didn't. As such "Billy Madison" remains a movie for the young who think making farting noises under your arm is still funny and acting like a moron the whole time should be laughed at.
As the son of Brian Madison (Darren McGavin), Billy (Adam Sandler - Mixed Nuts) is supposed to take over the family hotel empire except Billy is a moronic slacker who sun bathes all day and gets wasted in the pool with his friends. When Billy learns that because of his stupidity the business is going to be handed over to Eric (Bradley Whitford - The Client) Billy vows to complete all 12 grades, in 24 weeks each and if he does he gets to inherit the empire like he had been promised.
The actual story to "Billy Madison" is both slim and familiar as we have Billy having to prove himself clever enough to take over the family business whilst the nefarious Eric tries to sabotage him. As such there isn't much to it as in reality it is purely a vehicle for gags and lots of them from Billy being a lazy, penguin hallucinating slacker to the big comedy musical number as Billy vows to go back to school. But whilst slim and little more than a vehicle for humour it does have one obvious issue when it comes to Billy trying to graduate all 12 grades in 24 weeks and that is it is repetitive. Billy starts a new class, one of the O'Doyle's picks on him; he makes fun of someone in class, graduates followed by party. Oh there is Billy's love of teacher Veronica Vaughn but that really isn't much.
So that means we get humour, lots of it and it certainly feels like a testing ground for various gags. We get Adam Sandler being a slacker, the he shouts, talks gibberish, sees a penguin and I could go on because there is a lot and a lot of it just fails. To put it bluntly a lot of the humour is moronic, stupid gags surrounding stupid acts without and intelligence or sometimes pay off. The thing is as a teen this sort of dumb humour works but as you grow up it shows itself for what it is and that is simple stupidity.
As for Sandler himself well in his first lead role he basically has the same sort of character we would see in later movies just not as refined, refined in the sense that Billy is all over the place. So we get Sandler being a slacker, acting stupid, shouting and then turning nice guy whilst still being childish and again teens will be amused when Billy takes a double dare to pull off an accidental boob grab but they will be the only ones. And that is really it because whilst you have the beautiful Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, the nefarious Bradley Whitford and the amusingly stiff Larry Hankin it is basically the Adam Sandler show.
What this all boils down to is that "Billy Madison" is a movie for teens who will laugh at a lot of moronic jokes. But it does mean if you enjoyed it as a teen I recommend just having fond memories as watching it again makes you realise how stupid it really is.