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 Pictures|
|Release date(s)||February 10, 1995|
|Running time||89 minutes|
Billy Madison is a 1995 American 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 #1. The film is about a slacker (Billy Madison) who must go back to school in order to take over his father's company. The comedy also features Chris Farley and Steve Buscemi with uncredited appearances. 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 (Adam Sandler), a 28-year-old heir to a wealthy father, has spent his entire life reaping the benefits of his family's hotel chain, Madison Hotels, a Fortune 500 company. He spends his days drinking with best friends, Jack (Mark Beltzman) and Frank (Norm Macdonald), and creating disasters across his father's estate.
One day, Billy ruins a dinner meeting between his father, Brian (Darren McGavin), and his associates by behaving obnoxiously after being provoked by Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford), Brian's executive vice-president who openly expresses his hatred towards Billy and secretly harbors hatred towards Brian as well and impatiently waits to become Brian's successor as head of Madison Hotels. This prompts Brian to lose any remaining faith in Billy, as he chooses the conniving Eric to become the next CEO of the company. When Billy, who despises Eric in return, protests that he can be responsible, Brian reveals that he secretly bribed all of Billy's school teachers in order for him to pass. Billy begs his father to reconsider his decision. The two finally come to a compromise: Billy must pass elementary, middle, and high school (grades 1-12) on his own within the course of twenty-four weeks (two weeks per grade), in order to prove his competence.
Shortly after enrolling into school, Billy becomes attracted to a third grade teacher named Veronica Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson), who initially is disgusted with Billy and finds his enrollment to be a distraction for the other students. He eventually finds himself as one of Veronica's students and earns her respect by defending Ernie (Jared Cook), his friend and classmate. Billy becomes popular among the third graders and begins to miss them as he advances through school.
When Billy reaches ninth grade, he finds that rather than being the cool guy that everyone looks up to, he is now considered a loser; realizing how it feels to be on the receiving end of bullying, he calls up an old classmate, Danny McGrath (Steve Buscemi), and apologizes for the way he treated him in high school. Danny accepts his apology, and crosses his name off a list of people to kill.
Billy's progress frustrates and alarms Eric, leading him to take the offensive while Billy struggles in high school. He visits Billy's grade school principal, Max Anderson (Josh Mostel), and threatens to go public with his hidden past as a professional wrestler that is filled with controversial incidents, especially a particular one back in 1983, when Max accidentally caused the death of another man while performing a stunt, all of which could spell the end of Max's career in education. Coerced, Max publicly states he took bribes from Billy in return for passing him.
The announcement angers Brian who chooses to give the hotel chain to Eric. Billy becomes distraught and reverts to his original care-free lifestyle, by igniting canine feces on his neighbor's porch. Veronica and others come to Billy's aid, convincing him to keep fighting Eric. His grade school friends help Billy's plight by visiting Max at his home and convincing him to retract his previous statements.
With Billy's name cleared, Brian and Carl Alphonse (Larry Hankin), a loyal, long-time employee of Madison Hotels, argue to Eric that Billy deserves another chance, but Eric refuses and finally shows his true colors by disrespecting Brian in front of the group and threatens to file a lawsuit if Brian refuses to sign the company to him. Billy challenges Eric to an academic decathlon that will determine his father's successor. Although both men excel in different activities, Billy manages to take a single-point lead before the contest's final event, a Jeopardy!-style academic test. Eric chooses "reflections of society in literature" as Billy's topic. Billy uses a book that was read to him in the first grade to answer the question, but the judge calls his answer "insanely idiotic" and gives Billy no points for his answer. With scores still the same, Eric is given the chance to answer and potentially win. However, Billy chooses a question for Eric about "business ethics", which ironically Eric knows nothing about and breaks down because he can't give an answer. Refusing to admit defeat, he brandishes a gun at both Billy and the judge, demanding a new question. Max, clad in his wrestling outfit, subdues Eric. The attack fails to keep Eric down and laughing maniacally, he makes a final attempt to get revenge on Billy by turning his gun on Veronica. Suddenly, Danny appears with a high-powered rifle and injures Eric by firing a single shot into his buttocks. Danny and Billy share a quick wave, before he departs.
At Billy's graduation, he announces that he is passing the hotel business down to Carl and will instead attend college with hopes of becoming a teacher. He and Veronica share a kiss and the film ends.
- 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)
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 -- along 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."
Billy Madison debuted at No.1 in 1995.
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 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "Rotten Tomatoes".
- Schickel, Richard (March 1995). "Billy Madison Review". Time.
- "MOVIE REVIEW : No New Lessons When 'Billy' Goes Back to Public School". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
- Gleiberman, Owen. "Billy Madison Review". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Kemply, Rita. "Billy Madison". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Mitchell, Elvis. "Billy Madison". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Lowry, Brian. "Review: ‘Billy Madison’". variety.com. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Mowbray, Billy. "Billy Madison Review". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Laforest, Kevin. "Billy Madison". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- "Weekend Box Office : The Winter Doldrums Continue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
- Billy Madison at AllMovie
- Billy Madison at the Internet Movie Database
- Billy Madison at the TCM Movie Database