Happy Gilmore

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Happy Gilmore
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Produced by Robert Simonds
Written by Tim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Starring Adam Sandler
Christopher McDonald
Julie Bowen
Carl Weathers
Frances Bay
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Arthur Albert
Edited by Jeff Gourson
Steve R. Moore
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
February 16, 1996 (1996-02-16)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $41.2 million[1]

Happy Gilmore is a 1996 sports comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan and produced by Robert Simonds. It stars Adam Sandler as the title character, an unsuccessful ice hockey player who discovers a talent for golf. The screenplay was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy. This film was the first of multiple collaborations between Sandler and Dugan.


Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is an aspiring ice hockey player who possesses a powerful and dangerous slapshot that his late father (Louis O'Donoghue) taught him as a child (Donnie MacMillan). However, Happy also possesses an over aggressive streak and lack of skating talent that consistently preclude him from joining a hockey team. His girlfriend Terry (Nancy McClure), a schoolteacher, leaves him because of his hockey obsession. He tries to coax her back over the interphone, but she has already left. Instead, a passing Chinese woman (Helena Yea) thinks he is talking to her and knocks on his door... and ends up spending the night. She later reappears at a tournament.

His grandmother (Frances Bay), who raised him after his father died and Happy's mother had left the family, has not paid her taxes for many years. As such, she owes the IRS $270,000 in back taxes, and the house that Happy's late grandfather "built with his bare hands" is about to be seized. Gilmore has only 90 days to come up with the money or else the house will be sold to someone else. Grandma Gilmore is forced to temporarily move into a retirement home, run by a sadistic manager named Hal (Ben Stiller in an uncredited role).

While repossessing Grandma's furniture, a pair of movers challenge Happy to hit golf balls. With his unorthodox, hockey slapshot-style swing (running up to the ball instead of standing over it), he hits the ball 400 yards three times, winning $40 as a result. This gives Happy the idea to go to the driving range to hustle golfers with his swing. When his progress is noticed by former golf star and current club pro Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers), whose pro golf career ended when his right hand was bitten off by an alligator in 1965 (though he managed to tear out one of its eyes afterwards), he convinces Happy to enter a local tournament by telling him he can make "big bucks". Happy wins the tournament and earns a spot on the Pro Golf Tour (fictionalized golf tour based on the PGA Tour). Chubbs advises Happy to wait to join the tour for six months, so that Chubbs can make him a better all-around golfer (calling his putting "embarrassing"). Against Chubbs' advice Happy joins the tour immediately, due to the fact that Happy needs to come up with the money for his Grandma's house in less than three months, which Chubbs is unaware of.

On the tour, Happy makes an instant enemy of pretentious and arrogant star Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), who sees Happy as both a detriment to golf and a threat to his career. In addition, Happy discovers that although he has a powerful drive, his putting is terrible, and his violent outbursts and lack of golf etiquette eventually leading Commissioner Doug Thompson (Dennis Dugan) to expel him from the tour but tour PR head Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen) convinces him to change his mind citing higher television ratings, increasing attendance, drawing more youthful sponsors and that she's willing to work with Gilmore on his anger issues with Thompson threatening to fire her as well if there are any further incidents. Happy begins to develop a cooler head while continuing to improve in tournaments much to the chagrin of Shooter, who decides to cheat and employ Donald (Joe Flaherty), a mentally unbalanced fan, to heckle Happy at the next tournament, the Pepsi Pro-Am, a tournament where tour pros team up with celebrities.

At the tournament Happy is paired with Bob Barker, then host/executive producer of the long-running CBS Daytime game show The Price Is Right. Donald immediately starts heckling Happy, taking his focus off his game so much that he plays terribly (putting him and Barker in last place). Exasperated at Happy's poor performance, Barker even begins criticizing him, and telling him, "There is no way that you could have been as bad at hockey as you are at golf", before they break into a full-scale brawl, in which Barker knocks Happy unconscious by kicking him in the face. As a result, Thompson fines Gilmore $25,000 and suspends him from the tour for one month; Shooter demands Happy be expelled, but Thompson tells Shooter, "Well, the board thinks that that might be extreme considering the fact that our ratings were the, ahem, highest we've ever had." Despite this, Happy secures an endorsement deal with Subway which gives him $275,000, which is more than enough money to buy back Grandma's house and pay the fine.

However, Happy discovers that the house is to be sold at an auction. Despite bidding $275,000, Happy is outbid by Shooter who has purchased the house for $350,000, and leverages a deal with Happy – he will let him have the house back in return for quitting the tour. Although Happy initially accepted the proposal, Virginia convinces him to reconsider. Instead, Happy decides to make a bet with his rival based on the upcoming Tour Championship – if Happy beats Shooter, he gets the house back, but if Shooter beats Happy, he will quit the tour forever; Shooter agrees.

Although Virginia is confident Happy will win, Happy is not as confident. He seeks the help of Chubbs, admitting his past mistakes. Together they head to a miniature golf course so Happy can improve his putting. One of Chubbs' key tricks for helping Happy improve by helping him concentrate and relax is to have him think of his own "happy place". Pleased with Happy's progress, Chubbs gives his protege a modified putter fashioned in the shape of a hockey stick as a present to use for the tournament. In return, Happy presents Chubbs with the head of the alligator that took his hand (which Happy had killed in a previous tournament). Horrified by the sight, Chubbs reels backward, causing him to fall out the window to his death.

Determined to win the tournament for Chubbs, Happy is evenly matched with Shooter after the first two rounds. Shooter is stunned that Happy has been keeping up with him, and by the end of the third day of the tournament Happy is leading Shooter. In desperation, Shooter once again cheats and calls on Donald. The next day Donald hits Happy with a Volkswagen Beetle, which he then accidentally rams into a television tower at the 18th hole. An injured Happy refuses to forfeit the tournament, but quickly discovers that he is too hurt to hit the long drive and drops from the lead by several shots heading into the final holes. However, after applying a lesson from Chubbs (evoking his "happy place") and receiving an important morale boost from Grandma, he is able to refocus. Shooter, meanwhile, angry over Happy's sudden comeback, loses his focus and the two become tied heading into the 18th hole. After Shooter makes his shot for par, the TV tower collapses and blocks Happy's putt for birdie. Although Virginia suggests play be suspended so the mess can be cleaned up, Shooter protests, citing the fact that earlier he had to hit a ball off a fan (Happy's old boss Mr. Larson (Richard Kiel)'s foot, as his request for a drop was denied). Virginia then tells Happy to go around the tower and then putt for the par and send the tournament to sudden death but instead, he opts to go for the win and uses what Chubbs taught him on the miniature golf course to make a trick shot to win the Tour Championship and the house.

Afterwards, an angry and hysterical Shooter attempts to steal Happy's gold jacket (his prize for winning the tournament), but is chased down and presumably beaten up by Mr. Larson and an angry mob of spectators. Back at Grandma's house, the film closes with Happy being congratulated by the two-handed ghost of Chubbs, Abraham Lincoln, and the alligator. Grandma asks Happy who he's waving at, prompting Happy to say, "Nobody, Grandma. Let's go home."


  • Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a young man who wants to be a professional ice hockey player.
  • Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin, an arrogant golfer who is the top player on the "Pro Golf Tour" (fictionalized golf tour based on the PGA Tour).
  • Julie Bowen as Virginia Venit, a public relations director for the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Frances Bay as Grandma Gilmore.
  • Carl Weathers as Chubbs Peterson, a pro golfer who was forced to retire early when his hand was bitten off by an alligator. Weathers reprises the role in Adam Sandler's 2000 film Little Nicky, despite Little Nicky being produced by New Line Cinema.
  • Allen Covert as Otto, a homeless man who becomes Happy's caddy. The character is unnamed in the film (although it is revealed in a deleted scene) but is listed in the end credits. Covert reprises the role in Adam Sandler's 2011 film Jack and Jill, despite being produced by Columbia Pictures.
  • Kevin Nealon as Gary Potter, the eccentric Pro Golf Tour pro Happy plays with in his first tournament.
  • Richard Kiel as Mr. Larson, Happy's towering former boss.
  • Dennis Dugan as Doug Thompson, the commissioner of the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Joe Flaherty as Unruly Fan, Donald
  • Lee Trevino as himself
  • Bob Barker as himself
  • Verne Lundquist as himself
  • Mark Lye as himself
  • Phillip Beer as Cowboy Joe, in the "happy place" sequences
  • Will Sasso as mover
  • Dee Jay Jackson as mover
  • Ben Stiller as Hal L. (uncredited), the sadistic orderly running the nursing home
  • Charles L. Brame as Abe Lincoln (apparently, this actor has appeared exclusively in 6 films, and always playing the role of Abraham Lincoln)[2]
  • Nancy McClure as Terry, a schoolteacher and Happy's girlfriend at the beginning of the film
  • Helena Yea as the Chinese Lady passerby
  • Donnie MacMillan as young Happy
  • Louis O'Donoghue as Happy's dad
  • Lisanne Collett as Happy's mom


Critical response [edit]

On the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the received a 60% rating based on 52 reviews with a consensus review of "Those who enjoy Adam Sandler's schtick will find plenty to love in this gleefully juvenile take on professional golf; those who don't, however, will find it unfunny and forgettable."[3] On Metacritic, It holds a 31% rating based on 14 reviews, indicating "Generally unfavorable reviews." [4] Brian Lowry of Variety stated that "The general tone nevertheless makes it difficult to elevate the gags beyond an occasional chuckle". Lowry only noted a few scenes he found inspired, including the fight scene with Bob Barker and when Happy attempts to find his "Happy Place" which was described as "Felliniesque".[5] Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars out of four, stating that Adam Sandler's character "doesn't have a pleasing personality: He seems angry even when he's not supposed to be, and his habit of pounding everyone he dislikes is tiring in a PG-13 movie". Ebert also noted the film's product placement stating that he "probably missed a few, but I counted Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Subway, Budweiser (in bottles, cans, and Bud-dispensing helmets), Michelob, Visa cards, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Sizzler, Red Lobster, Wilson, Golf Digest, the ESPN sports network, and Top-Flite golf balls".[6]

Ratings effect[edit]

The scene with Barker beating up Gilmore increased ratings for The Price Is Right in the younger demographics. Bob claimed every day someone in the audience asked him about Happy Gilmore. The show had previously tried but failed to do this with a syndicated variation of the game, hosted by Doug Davidson.

Box office [edit]

The film was a commercial success, ranking #2 at the US box office on its debut weekend with $8.5 million in revenue. The film was made for $12 million and grossed a total of $41.2 million worldwide, with $38.8 million of that at the North American domestic box office.[1]


Adam Sandler earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor for the film.

The film was nominated for a Sound Effects award; foley artists spent over 40 hours designing, improving, and perfecting the sound of Adam Sandler’s golf swing.

The film won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Fight" for Adam Sandler versus Bob Barker.

Pop culture references[edit]

In 2015, Adam Sandler and Bob Barker performed a sketch as part of "Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars" (in support of Autism Awareness). In the sketch, the two engage in another fight similar to the one in the movie this time in a hospital. The end of the sketch has the two fighting in heaven, with Carl Weathers (as Chubbs) criticizing Sandler (calling him Happy) then quickly relenting and telling him to "kick his (Barker's) ass." The alligator and Lincoln are also seen.


  1. ^ a b "Happy Gilmore". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Charles L. Brame on IMDb
  3. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  4. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/movie/happy-gilmore
  5. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 19, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved July 2, 2010.  1.5/4 stars

External links[edit]