DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Tamra Davis
Adam Sandler, Darren McGavin, Bridgette Wilson, Bradley Whitford, Josh Mostel, Norm Macdonald
Writing Credits:
Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler

To inherit his family's fortune, Billy is going back to school ... Way back.

He's the heir to the Madison hotel millions but in order to win his father's respect, and his Fortune 500 company, grown-up goof-off Billy Madison must repeat all 12 grades of school in just six months! Comedy superstar Adam Sandler stars with beautiful Bridgette Wilson in this laugh-a-minute hit where the subject is always fun! Featuring songs by Electric Light Orchestra, The Jackson 5, The Cars, Culture Club, The Ramones and Styx.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$25.588 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/30/2004

Available Only as Part of a Two-Pack with Happy Gilmore.

• Audio Commentary with Director Tamra Davis
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Production Notes


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


Billy Madison: Special Edition (The Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore Collection) (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 29, 2004)

To find Adam Sandler’s best work – in my opinion, at least – we need to return to his first real leading role. That came from 1995’s Billy Madison, a gleefully asinine tale that offered a consistently witty and entertaining experience.

I felt positively toward Sandler before I saw Madison. I'd watched him on Saturday Night Live for a few years and I thought he was terrific. His absurd Weekend Update bit about cheap Halloween costumes kids could make from household items - such as going as “Crazy Spoonhead” - remains one of the funniest SNL routines I've ever seen.

As such, my opinion of Sandler could have dropped after I watched Billy Madison, and to be truthful, it didn’t bowl me over at the time. However, the movie continues to hold up well over the years, and it continues to remain a wonderfully silly piece of work. The Wedding Singer had more heart, Punch-Drunk Love presented more depth, but Madison offered the most laughs.

Billy Madison works upon a slight but clever premise: apparently moronic rich-boy slacker Billy has to successfully repeat grades one through twelve or his hotel magnate father will give the company to suck-up weasel Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford) when he retires. Improbable and ridiculous? Sure! But nonetheless, it’s chock full of comedic opportunities.

Some of the film's best-realized moments arise from the absurdity of an adult- even an immature one like Billy - attending a class with very young children, and it helps that Sandler plays the role with great charm and occasional innocence; while bits of adult Billy pop out from time to time, he really gets immersed in the grade school culture. Half the humor of the movie comes from simply watching Billy respond to kids in a childlike way, and many funny scenes come from watching Billy use his adulthood to his advantage. I may hate myself afterwards, but I'm always entertained by watching Billy terrorize the first graders at dodgeball.

Clearly this isn't a terribly demanding role, but Sandler nonetheless makes Billy real enough that the viewer roots for him. Yes, its predictable that we see Billy grow from spoiled brat to fairly responsible member of society, but Sandler plays Billy with such an ingratiating ease that we willingly go along for the ride.

The rest of the cast helps make Billy Madison a very entertaining and amusing film as well. Darren McGavin has little to do in his role as Billy's father, but he takes his small moments and makes them interesting. Whitford is one of those actors who has the role of sniveling weasel down pat; he's cartoony, but it's a cartoony movie, so that's fine.

Bridgette Wilson grounds the film to a degree with her part as Billy's second grade teacher/love interest. Since she's supposed to be the "adult" in the movie, she doesn't get to do much of great interest, but she performs the role nicely and she certainly adds a tremendous amount of sex appeal to the role. (As an aside, I've worked for a public school system for years and I've met many teachers over that span. Where are the ones who look like Bridgette Wilson? I'm still searching!) Finally, both Steve Buscemi and Chris Farley provide terrific cameos.

In the end, it's a good thing that Billy Madison boasts some strong performances, because that's really what keeps the movie afloat. Besides its interesting premise, the film offers little unusual, and much of the humor would have been pedestrian at best in the hands of less capable performers. As it stands, Billy Madison offers a very funny and entertaining time; it's the perfect movie to watch when you just want to relax and lay back for a little while.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Billy Madison appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many problems showed up during this very good transfer.

Sharpness mainly worked well. A smidgen of softness crept into some wider shots, but those remained minor. The majority of the flick looked concise and accurate. No shimmering or jaggies showed up, and only a little edge enhancement became apparent. As for source flaws, I noticed a bit of grain plus an occasional speck or mark. Those didn’t cause substantial distractions.

Colors worked well and offered some of the transfer’s strongest moments. The film provided a fairly natural but bright palette than translated well here. The tones occasionally looked a little heavy, but they usually seemed vibrant and distinctive. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not too thick. Not too much here caused complaints.

While the original release included just a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the new Billy Madison added a DTS 5.1 mix. Given the passive nature of the movie’s audio, this surprised me. As anticipated, the two tracks sounded virtually identical, and I couldn’t discern any differences between the pair.

The audio seemed fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most comedies, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed very nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides. The surrounds added light reinforcement of those elements, but they contributed virtually no unique information.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music seemed nicely bright and vibrant and also demonstrated nice bass response. Overall, the audio worked fine for the movie, but due to its lack of atmospheric ambition, I felt it merited only a “C+”.

How did the picture and audio of this new release compare with those on the old DVD? Despite the addition of the DTS track, the audio remained identical. However, I thought the new visual transfer offered an improvement over the prior one. It tightened up some of the original’s softness and also cleaned up matters; the new DVD featured fewer source flaws. It also lost the moderate edge enhancement of the original. Across the board, this was a noticeably superior image.

Whereas the prior release skimped on supplements, this “Special Edition” adds a smattering. First we get an audio commentary from director Tamra Davis, who offers a running, screen-specific discussion. She chats about subjects like her hiring, production design, and the atmosphere on the set. She wasn’t the film’s original director; she doesn’t name her fired predecessor, but she gets into what it was like to come onto the flick and also points out the scenes she didn’t shoot.

Probably the most interesting tidbits come from her anecdotes. In particular, her memories of downtime fun with Sandler and Chris Farley prove amusing and enjoyable. However, much of the time Davis simply talks about how wacky the movie’s action is; I heard the word “crazy” used more in this 90-minute commentary than at a Patsy Cline convention. The track also suffers from a fair amount of dead air. Davis offers a number of good points but overall, this piece doesn’t fare terribly well.

A large collection of deleted scenes pops up next. Massed into six chapters, we get a total of 42 cut sequences. All together, they run 32 minutes and 52 seconds. As one might infer from the running time and number of sliced scenes, most of them don’t last very long. The majority present fairly brief removals from existing elements, though a few unique sequences appear.

Cut scenes from virtually all parts of the movie show up here. Obviously, there are way too many for me to comment on all of them, but they include a lot of interesting bits. We see more of the movie’s musical number plus a more graphic depiction of what happens to the O’Doyle clan. Some of the segments veer across the line of good taste. One wisely-excised piece shows Sandler naked in the locker room with the third graders. Another hints at a much darker side to the Ernie character. All are interesting to see, even when they’re problematic.

Next we see a set of outtakes. This reel lasts three minutes and 43 seconds as it presents goofs and gaffes. It’s a little more interesting than usual because it includes a few true outtakes, and we see remnants of deleted scenes that don’t show up elsewhere.

Finally, we see some mildly interesting production notes that also appeared on the original disc. Unfortunately, this new set loses the Madison trailer from that showed up on the prior package. The disc does open with promos for the Fast Times/Dazed and Confused “Ultimate Party Collection” as well as The Chronicles of Riddick and The Bourne Supremacy.

Despite its various shortcomings, Billy Madison offers a consistently entertaining and frequently amusing experience. I think it remains Adam Sandler’s most winning effort. The DVD provides very good picture with decent sound and a roster of extras highlighted by a ton of deleted scenes.

I like the movie a lot, and the DVD works well enough to merit a recommendation. Available only in a two-pack with Happy Gilmore, it’s definitely the version to get if you don’t own a copy of the prior release. If you do have the earlier DVD, it’s a tougher decision. I like this one and am happy to have it, especially since the set includes Gilmore, a film I hadn’t seen. If you’re solely interested in Madison, you’ll probably want to stick with the original disc. The picture and supplements improve here, but they’re not so terrific I can unilaterally endorse a “double-dip”.

To rate this film, visit the original review of BILLY MADISON