Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tamra Davis|
|Produced by||Robert Simonds|
|Written by||Adam Sandler
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Edited by||John Gilroy
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
|February 10, 1995|
|Box office||$26.4 million|
Billy Madison is a 1995 American family comedy film directed by Tamra Davis. It stars Adam Sandler in the title role, along with Bradley Whitford, Bridgette Wilson, Norm Macdonald, and Darren McGavin. The film was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy, and produced by Robert Simonds. It made over $26.4 million worldwide and debuted at number one.
The film is about a mentally challenged man (Sandler as the title character) who must go back to school in order to take over his father's company. Sandler would later form a production company, Happy Madison Productions, named after a combination of this film's title character and Happy Gilmore's.
Billy Madison is the 27-year old heir to a Fortune 500 hotel chain run by his father Brian. He spends most of his days lying in a drunken haze after lavish keg parties with his two best friends and constantly has hallucinations of giant penguins that he often chases around the estate. After Billy makes a fool of himself at a company dinner after being provoked by Brian's scheming vice president Eric Gordon, an outraged Brian informs Billy that he will not inherit the company and it will go to Eric when he retires. Furthermore, Billy learns that he never passed a single grade in school; learning that Brian had bribed each of his teachers to pass him (and also let him pass a spelling bee in the 2nd grade, during which he had spelled the word 'rock' "R-O-K".) Billy comes up with a deal that he complete all 12 grades at 2 week intervals and regraduate in order to earn the right to run the company. To Eric's chagrin, Brian agrees to the terms and Billy is enrolled.
After passing first and second grade, he develops a crush on his third grade teacher, Veronica Vaughn, who abhors by his attitude and behavior. She begins to see him in a better light though, when he covers for his friend Ernie who accidentally wets himself during a class field trip, making it seem cool to pee his pants. Billy continues through the grades, countering his reputation as well as several generations of the O'Doyles; a competitive family that often picks on him, and after each grade, Billy throws a massive pool party for his growing entourage of friends. His progress angers Eric, who realizes he is at risk of losing control of the company to Billy, whom he despises. Carl Alphonse, a loyal employee to Madison Hotels, warns Billy of Eric's plans to ruin him.
During one of Billy's parties after graduating Middle School, Eric approaches Max Anderson, the principal of the grade school and blackmails him with knowledge that Max was once a professional wrestler who had accidentally killed an opponent by sitting on him during a fight. Meanwhile, Billy begins to realize how difficult it was not being the popular one in High School, as he is thoroughly embarrassed by his new classmates. He calls an old friend, Danny McGrath, who was the subject to Billy and his friends' bullying in High School and makes amends with him. Max announces publicly that he took bribes from Billy during his term at school. Angered, Brian calls off the bet and Billy becomes distraught. Disillusioned, Billy returns to his drunken lifestyle and is thoroughly despondent until Veronica arrives and literally beats some sense into him. With the help of his former schoolmates and several other random characters, Max announces that he fabricated the story which drives Eric to accidentally injure his secretary in a fit of rage. Brian opts to give Billy another chance, but Eric challenges the agreement they had made as Billy had lost too much time.
Billy challenges Eric to an academic decathlon; challenging the subjects learned in high school. Confident, Eric agrees to the contest, in which Billy and Eric both prepare. Initially, Billy and Eric are neck and neck with the decathlon. Meanwhile, the O'Doyles finally meet their end, running over a banana peel left on the highway during the earlier field trip and swerving off the cliff; still chanting "O'Doyle Rules!" During the decathlon's final event, a Jeopardy!-style contest where each opponent challenges the other to a specific subject, the high school principal announces Billy is ahead of Eric by one point. Eric challenges Billy to the subject "Reflections of Society in Literature", which Billy references a story read to the class in the first grade. Regarded as "insanely idiotic" in his response, Billy rebounds by challenging Eric to the subject of "Business Ethics"; Unable to withstand the pressure, Eric snaps and pulls a gun. Max charges in, dressed in his wrestling outfit and tackles him, but Eric recovers, turning the gun on Veronica, only to be shot in the butt by Danny, making Billy glad he called him to make up.
At his graduation, Billy decides that he wants to go to college in order to become a teacher. He gives his future position as CEO to Carl, who proved to be completely loyal to the Madisons, while Eric fumes in frustration.
- Adam Sandler as Billy Madison
- Darren McGavin as Brian Madison
- Bridgette Wilson as Veronica Vaughn
- Bradley Whitford as Eric Gordon
- Josh Mostel as Principal Max Anderson
- Norm Macdonald as Frank
- Mark Beltzman as Jack
- Larry Hankin as Carl Alphonse
- Theresa Merritt as Juanita
- Jim Downey as Principal/Judge of the "Decathlon"
- Hrant Alianak as Pete
- Dina Platias as Ms. Lippy
- Robert Smigel as Mr. Oblaski, science teacher
- Chris Farley as Bus Driver (uncredited)
- Steve Buscemi as Danny McGrath (uncredited)
Billy Madison received mixed to negative reviews. On Metacritic, the film has a rare score of 16 based on 13 reviews, stating "overwhelming dislike". On the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 46% review by critics, with a consensus review of "Billy Madison is typical early immature fare from Adam Sandler, even if it finds moments of inspired lunacy".
Richard Schickel panned the film calling it "one of the most execrable movies ever made". Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times commented; "Sandler has a bad habit of thinking he is funnier than we are"." On At the Movies, Siskel and Ebert gave the film thumbs down, and Roger Ebert said of Sandler, "...Not an attractive screen presence, he might have a career as a villain or a fall guy or the butt of a joke, but as the protagonist his problem is he creates the fingernails on the blackboard." Gene Siskel added "... you don't have a good motivation for the character's behavior". Owen Gleiberman also panned the film saying "By the end, you feel like a drill sergeant—you want to wipe that stupid grin off Sandler's face". Rita Kemply of The Washington Post said the film was trying to be "A more kid-friendly version of 'Dumb and Dumber.' And there's even a moral: 'Yahoo for education,' though the movie doesn't really put any muscle behind it."
Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, calling it "It succeeds as a reasonably smart no-brainer. If you've ever had a yen to relive the third grade, this must be the next best thing." Brian Lowry of Variety also gave the film a mixed review, saying "There are a few bursts of sheer, irresistible idiocy—long the lines of 'Wayne's World' or even 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure'—but not enough to sustain the more arid stretches."
Billy Mowbray of Film4 gave the film a positive review, writing: "When you get that Sandler's comedic persona is meant to be annoying, like Beavis and Butthead or Cartman, the laughs come thick and fast". Kevin N. Laforest said, "Okay, the plot is inane, but it's the basis of a series of really funny scenes."
Awards and nominations
Songs featured in the film
- "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" by Culture Club
- "Beat on the Brat" by The Ramones
- "ABC" by The Jackson 5
- "I'm Not the One" by The Cars
- "The Stroke" by Billy Squier
- "Telephone Line" by Electric Light Orchestra
- "Renegade" by Styx
- "Billy Madison". Box Office Mojo.
- "Billy Madison". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "Billy Madison (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- Schickel, Richard (March 1995). "Billy Madison Review". Time.
- Rainer, Peter (February 11, 1995). "MOVIE REVIEW: No New Lessons When 'Billy' Goes Back to Public School". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
- Gleiberman, Owen (February 24, 1995). "Billy Madison". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Kemply, Rita (February 11, 1995). "Billy Madison". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Maslin, Janet (February 11, 1995). "FILM REVIEW; Repeating Grades 1-12: Do the Daiquiris Help?". Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Lowry, Brian (February 12, 1995). "Review: 'Billy Madison'". Variety. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Mowbray, Billy. "Billy Madison Review". Channel 4. Archived from the original on October 15, 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Laforest, Kevin (May 1, 2002). "Billy Madison". Montreal Film Journal. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Billy Madison at AllMovie
- Billy Madison at the Internet Movie Database
- Billy Madison at the TCM Movie Database