Billy Madison (Movie Review)

One of Adam Sandler’s best movies, Billy Madison is the absolutely hilarious film that sparked Sandler’s long reign as a romantic comedy box office draw. Exhibiting a sharp wit, combined with a touch of sensitivity for the fairer sex, the former Saturday Night Live standout successfully distances himself from the lewd and crude comedy path and creates a nice medium between outrageous and lighthearted comedy. It’s a path he would later follow with box office hits Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and Mr. Deeds. In Billy Madison, he follows that same path to perfection…

Billy Madison follows the life of a character by the same name (Adam Sandler) – a 27-year-old unemployed heir to a hotel fortune who lacks all ambition. The opening scenes capture Billy lying by the pool with his friends, hungover and completely out of his mind, and they set the tone for a movie filled with humorous antics and great one-liners. But Billy’s life of laziness is turned upside down, when his father (Darren McGavin) decides that he’s going to retire from running his multimillion dollar hotel empire. He appoints his arrogant and condescending assistant Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford) as heir apparent. The appointment comes as a shock to Billy who thought he would automatically inherit the reigns upon his father’s retirement. But when Billy’s father reveals that he paid all of Billy’s teachers from kindergarten to high school to give his son a passing grade, the young man begins to understand why. Billy quickly offers a deal to his father that if he can pass grades K-12 all over again, then he will inherit control of the hotel empire after all. His father agrees.

As Billy goes through each grade, he meets a number of new friends – mostly third graders. He also falls in love with his beautiful third grade teacher Veronica Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson) who is quick to condemn Billy as a lazy, self-absorbed, screw-up. However, she later recognizes his sensitivity and special way with children, and she develops an interest in him as well. Also interested in Billy is the gay elementary school principal Max Anderson (Josh Mostel). When Eric Gordon sees that Billy is going to successfully pass each grade, he blackmails Principal Anderson. If Anderson doesn’t go on TV and tell the world that Billy paid him for a passing grade, he’ll tell everyone about Anderson’s hidden past as a pro-wrestler named “The Revolting Blob” who accidentally killed another wrestler in the ring.

When Billy’s grade school friends come to his aid, it’s determined that Billy and Eric will fight for control of the hotel empire via an “academic decathlon”. Now, only Billy’s wits can win him what he most desires…

Billy Madison is a movie with a number of hilarious scenes. In one such scene, a third grader accidentally “pees his pants” and is afraid to get on the bus during a field trip. Sandler throws some water on his pants and tells the other children that “peein’ in your pants is cool”! thus saving the child from embarrassment. In another scene, Billy calls ex-classmate Danny McGrath (Steve Buscemi) to apologize for picking on him as a kid. After the phone call, Danny crosses Billy off of his master list of “people to kill”. Later, Danny comes to Billy’s aid.

Overall, this is a fun movie. If you like lighthearted comedy with just a touch of outrageous behavior, then you’ll enjoy this breakout Adam Sandler hit. Billy Madison won’t be found on anyone’s list of Academy Award winning all-time great cinema masterpieces, but it’s just as entertaining as any film that would be. That’s why I rank it as a must-see movie. Make sure to check it out…

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