There seem to be two versions of Big Daddy. If you like Adam Sandler you’ll probably see the first one. In this version Sonny Koufax (Sandler) is a likable, if unmotivated, 32-year-old ex-lawyer, whose heart is as big as all outdoors. He becomes surrogate father to gorgeous little Julian (Cole and Dylan Sprouse – I’ll get to that in a moment), who is so cute he’ll have you clasping your hands to your breast. Contributing equally to the fun are Adam’s love interest Layla (Joey Lauren Adams), another attorney with a big heart; her sister Corrine (Leslie Mann), an ex-Hooters girl with a big chest; and Delivery Man (Rob Schneider), a soulful nebbish who is the only one in the cast without an advanced degree. The story has a lot of laughs. Since we love Sonny so much, his few digressions mean little to the inevitable course of the plot.
But it’s always possible you might see Version Two, the one you see if you’re not all that crazy about Adam Sandler. In this version Sonny is a cruel, self-centered little baby who works one day a week in a toll booth. His goal to remain a juvenile manifests itself in stunts like tripping on-line skaters, peeing on the walls of fancy restaurants, and covering up piles of barf with old newspaper. In this version, Julian (who is played by twin six-year-old boys, each with five years acting experience!) is as cute as a wart under a pimple, with a precociousness that could only be written by people who have never spent any time around children. The two women, Corrine and Layla, spend all their time strutting their hooters, and if anyone makes another deprecating crack at Delivery Man we’re going to have to call the ACLU.
There are some funny scenes and situations – but you’d better like lines like "Oooh, Julian! That’s a shitload of piss!" If they thought it was going to be an advantage getting twins to play the role of Julian, they should have checked to see if the Dionne Quints were still available. This two-actor kid is only cute until he spills his first gallon of milk, and that’s at the beginning of Reel One. After listening to that annoying lisp for an entire movie you want to thtrangle him.
Judging from the film audience, though, most people saw Version One. Sandler is an appealing character. He has a simplicity which is contagious. He is not Tom Hanks or Billy Crystal but he is is able to tap into varying emotions. He can convince you he’s in love while maintaining his incessant sarcasm, which isn’t easy to do. Perhaps, like Jim Carey, Sandler will grow into more well rounded roles. Right now he looks like a comedian surprised to be acting, but it is not impossible to imagine him handling Steve Martin roles in the future.
Will Big Daddy be a hit? I think so. It has everything Version One people have come to expect in an Adam Sandler movie. The good guys win at the end in a courtroom finish that forces you to forget everything you have ever heard about the American legal system. We get an epilogue with more babies and more cute kids and more baseball hats worn backwards and everything except a cute, fuzzy dog.
So if you go to see Big Daddy, just tell yourself you’re seeing Version One. You’ll like it a lot more than the Version Two you are bound to read about from snippy reviewers trapped in their real lives doing real things with real people.