The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection (SE)

Throwing two movies together in a box is an obvious attempt at increasing sales for Christmas. That way you can tell your friend you’ve purchased him a lovely box set, even though what you are giving him is little different than buying two unrelated movies separately and duct taping them together. This is logically the only explanation for The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection, which isn’t so much a collection as it is two movies together in a cardboard wrapper. Luckily for them, these are two movies I wanted anyway, so buying their special editions in one fell swoop appeals to me. I have a keen appreciation for the comedy of Adam Sandler, and as such am pretty sick of the elitist hate-mongers who insist on thumbing their noses at anyone who laughs at him. The guy is funny, and though his shtick may be a lot of the same thing, he puts enough new spin on it that I’ve yet to grow tired of it. Billy Madison is not nearly as universally beloved as Happy Gilmore which has become something of a comedy classic, but I celebrate Billy as an imaginary penguin chasing masterpiece in its own right. Happy Gilmore is the movie that even most Sandler haters have seen, while I may be the only person on the planet who loves Billy Madison. Packaging Happy with Billy was probably a way to unload a lot of otherwise unsellable Madison DVDs.

Billy Madison was Sandler’s first real starring movie role and a perfect place for his childish behavior since he’s spending the movie around legitimate kids. Billy is the male equivalent of Paris Hilton, without the ambition to actually get out of the house. His parents are rich so he is lazy. He’s a twenty-seven year old adult who spends his days drunk around Dad’s mansion, passing out with friends by the pool after downing massive quantities of Margaritas, chasing imaginary penguins in a golf cart, waiting by the mail box for his latest edition of the porno mag “Drunk Chicks”. Billy’s father is thinking about retirement, and wants to hand his company over to his only son. Since Billy is a complete idiot, he can’t. So, to prove that he’s not a fool, Billy goes back to school… all of it. He has to complete first through twelfth grade, with two weeks for each grade.

This provides plenty of opportunity for gags involving Sandler and kids, or jokes about hyper-tensive bus drivers and really hot third grade teachers. Sandler fits right in with the pre-teeners only to get his ass kicked by bullies in high school. The premise is stupid, but the result is flat out funny whether Sandler is convincing third graders that it’s cool to piss yourself, or he’s engaging in erotic study time with the now deceased Chris Farley. Since this was his first movie, even his baby-talk gag is fresh. Ah skibble dee doo! Oh sure, when Snoop Dogg does it, it’s cool. Fizzle shizzle skizzle.

Happy Gilmore is arguably still the movie that Adam Sandler is most famous for, and undoubtedly the one which received the widest amount of acceptance. It has him as a hockey player with skating issues, who puts his talent for whacking things really hard with a stick to use in golf. Along with his talent for hitting things really hard, he brings his extreme rage. At first, this seems a little out of place on a golf course. His anger issues lead him to a par 4 brawl with Bob Barker and earn him an unprecedented amount of fans. Suddenly stale, boring golf tournaments turn into rock concerts, with legions of Happy fans showing up to lend him support. At first, Happy is just in it for the money, but eventually he’s in it for the babes too.

Featuring the funniest line ever uttered by Kevin Nealon (“Doin the bull dance, feelin the flow. Workin it. Workin it.”), great cameos, midgets in a happy place, and a janitor who lip-synchs to “Endless Love”, Happy Gilmore is one of the funniest movies of the nineties and also one of the only tolerable movies ever made on the subject of golf. It’s a great guy’s movie, a great sports movie, and flat out funny. It holds up so well that I’m perfectly comfortable putting it in a tidy little spot on my shelf next to Office Space. Since they’re both tossed in the same wrapper, it makes sense for both movies’ special editions to be similar. They are. The Billy Madison: Special Edition sports a little bit snazzier menu screen, in which Sandler walks back and forth humming “back to school”, but otherwise the setup and even the features of both discs are nearly identical.

Both feature a huge stack of extra deleted scenes. Some of these are funny, some are not but both discs should be commended for throwing in so many. The back of the Billy Madison disc claims to have a full twenty five minutes of deleted scenes, and while I didn’t time them that sounds about right. The Happy Gilmore box’s claim that its twenty minutes of deleted footage is “outrageous” may be a bit over the top, but at least both boxes have their time estimates spot on. Also included are a ton of outtakes, which range from mild flubs to all out screw ups. Both discs have their share and they’re worth a look. Again, the boxes claim their outtakes are “gut busting” but that’s only because “might cause a chuckle” doesn’t sell.

Frankly, though both discs are pretty similar, the entire Happy Gilmore: Special Edition seems to be subtly overcompensating for something. It has stickers like “Awesome, New!” and “Never Before Seen!” plastered all over it, while the Billy Madison packaging seems a little more at peace with what it actually is. Perhaps that’s because the Billy Madison disc is the only one with any sort of commentary, thus making the commentary-less Happy disc feel inferior.

The Billy commentary track is a few words from director Tamra Davis, which while fun is a little disappointing. I mean, after all Adam Sandler didn’t just star in this film, he wrote it along with his partner Tim Herlihy. I’d imagine he has something to say beyond the normal actor prattle and I would have liked to hear him paired up with Tamra Davis for commentary duties. Tamra alone seems a little oversexed and starts the commentary by pointing out how as a woman she notices things like how sexy Adam Sandler’s body is. Since the fans of this film are mostly guys, many will probably never make it past that Sandler-sexualized introduction. Should the macho men out there make it past commentary on Sandler’s abs, you’ll find some great nuggets about Adam’s obsession with the Bee Gees, nicknames they had for the kids, and Sandler’s theory that hitting kids is funny, as is being mean to them.

Putting these two movies together in one package does nothing to either improve or lessen either film. It’s just a way for folks like me to buy them both in one lump. Why not. They’re both funny, and while maybe the Madison disc is slightly better, they’re the same sort of thing. That’s weird actually, since Happy Gilmore is generally the more widely beloved of the two films, you’d think they’d have put that little bit of extra effort into that one. Still, for fans like me this is a great way to pick up a double dose of Sandler/Herlihy genius. Merry Christmas potential shoppers.