Three movies I own, that I watch over and over, still laughing every time are Billy Madison, Tommy Boy, and a little more risque, Bad Santa. I cite the movie cases in identifying the directors and cast. Tommy Boy and Billy Madison have the same basic premise, but use different styles of directing. Bad Santa is a dark comedy, but uses the same directing style as Tommy Boy.
ADAM SANDLER: HOW TO CHANGE AN IDIOT
In a slapstick comedy, Adam Sandler plays Billy, a graduate with no intelligence, who made it through school, because his rich daddy paid the teachers. Billy’s father, Brian Madison, played by Darren McGavin imagined Billy taking over his company. Eric, Bradley Whitford, Brian’s associate suggests that Billy is not mature or smart enough to run the company. Billy convinces dad to give him one chance. Billy must complete Kindergarten through 12th grade, each in two weeks, and then he takes over the company. Billy is as immature as his elementary peers, but stands up for the ‘geeks’ he once harassed. “You’re not cool, unless you pee your pants,” he shouts, as he splashes water on his pants to protect his friend from the humiliation of an accident. Other comedians include Chris Farley, the bus driver who steals the kids’ lunches, and Norm McDonald, Billy’s friend, whose best idea is to feed a donkey beer and “get it all messed up.” Ultimately, Billy decides to give the company to an honest associate, and become a teacher. Tamra Davis directs, using a Brectian style, originated from Bertolt Brecht, who feels the audience should be reminded of the actors and acting, as explained in the article Styles of Directing, by Connections: A Hypertext Resource for Literature found at www.math.grinnell.edu. During one scene towards the end, the cast performs dialogue as a musical, directed toward the audience, as opposed to each other.
CHRIS FARLEY SAVES THE DAY
“Brothers don’t shake hands, brothers gotta hug!” exclaims Tommy Boy, Chris Farley, greeting his new step-brother Paul, played by Rob Lowe. Tommy Boy is another slapstick comedy. Brian Dennehy is Big Tom, Tommy Boy’s father, and Bo Derek is Beverly, his fiancee. Like Billy Madison, Tommy has gotten through life due to his rich father, who gives Tommy a job at his auto parts company, after graduating college in 7 years. Paul, is actually Beverly’s husband. Beverly marries rich men, aids in their demise to get an inheritance. It seems they won’t have to wait, since Big Tom dies at the wedding reception, following a heart attack. If Tommy Boy cannot sell enough brake pads to save the company, the store, business owner Zalinski, comedian Dan Akroyd, will close down the store and most workers from the small town will be jobless. Tommy Boy goes on his dad’s sales trip to save the company, bringing along Big Tom’s assistant Richard, played by David Spade, who makes fun of Tommy’s stupidity constantly. Paul interferes, and sales made were cancelled, but Tommy approaches Zylinski on national television, pressuring him to buy the pads. Peter Segal directs this movie, using Hollywood style, explained in the article Styles of Directing, cited above. The audience agrees to pretend characters are real, and lose themselves in the plot. The cast does not engage the audience directly.
BILLY BOB THORNTON: ONE PATHETIC, DRUNK SANTA CLAUS
Bad Santa, stars Billy Bob Thornton as Willie, a career criminal. It is directed by Terry Zwigoff, who also uses Hollywood style directing. The movie seems natural, the characters like real people. Billy Bob Thornton does an excellent job of getting into character as angry, drunk santa. He runs a con with a midget named Marcus, played by Tony Cox, santa’s elf. Unlike Billy Madison and Tommy Boy, Bad Santa is considered a crime comedy, cites www.imdb.com. Although Willie never really tries to be funny, his drunken antics, violent episodes, and hateful comments make this movie. Willie hates his life, everything, and everybody, demonstrated through his demeaning sarcasm. Willie meets a ‘loser’ kid, who takes his sarcastic comments literally, infuriating Willie. He hooks up with a girl named Sue, Lauren Graham, who has a santa fetish. Comedians include John Ritter, the stuffy store manager, and Bernie Mac the security boss, who figures out the duo’s scam and demands half of everything. Ultimately the conmen are caught, but Willie catches a break, as the police officers involved shoot down an unarmed santa, trying to bring a stuffed elephant to the kid, while many kids witness this and scream out in horror.
I prefer dark or criminal comedy most of the time. However, if I am feeling down, and just in the mood for nonsense, I will choose a slapstick comedy every time. Sometimes, the silly antics and goofy lines are just what I need, in order to laugh.