Happy Gilmore: The Price is Wrong!

Bob Barker and Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore. Courtesy of Universal.

Happy Gilmore–the first team-up between director Dennis Dugan and star Adam Sandler–is one of the better Sandler comedies.

“The price is wrong, bitch!” – Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) to Bob Barker

I meant to watch the film for its 25th anniversary but because of Covid and everything, I didn’t get around to doing so. It’s unfortunate, in this case, that I’m only watching it in tribute to the late Bob Barker. Barker, the former host of The Price is Right, is paired up with Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) during the Pepsi Pro-Am. It comes when a fan (Joe Flaherty) keeps annoying the rookie golfer to no end. At this point, Gilmore knows he has to be on good behavior. Rather than take it out on the jeering fan, Gilmore, 29, takes it out on Bob Barker, 72. The result is one of the best fight scenes in cinematic history. Sports films can certainly pull a punch or two. Meanwhile, the film also features an impossible winning shot as only a sports comedy could.

If you’re not familiar with Happy Gilmore, the film is about the titular down-on-his-luck hockey player. Hockey isn’t working out for him but after winning a bet, he ends up turning to golf as a way of saving his grandmother’s (Frances Bay) house. She owes $270,000 in taxes to the IRS. Standing in his way is Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald). Thankfully for Happy, he has club pro Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers) and publicist Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen) on his side.

There are the usual players that typically appear in Sandler movies. But again, Sandler is early enough in his career to where the film doesn’t have the formulaic feel that would end up hurting a number of his latter movies. When the Sandman is on, he is on. Even though it’s a comedy, there are still some touching moments between characters. Verne Lundquist’s appearance as himself lends the film some credibility as a golf movie, even as Happy Gilmore is becoming the bad boy of the Tour. Happy’s behavior would otherwise lead to expulsion if not for the profits in the sport. Despite McGavin’s feelings, Happy’s popularity is what the sport needs to bring in the ratings. It speaks to how ratings are everything. High ratings also help bring in the advertising dollars, too. Speaking of, Happy makes some extra crash by picking up Subway as a sponsor.

The film was released just over a year to the date after Billy Madison. Both movies would prove to be home runs for Universal Pictures. Sandler’s former roommate, Judd Apatow, did an uncredited rewrite on the script. Interestingly, it took five drafts before golf consultant Mark Lye would sign off. The original script saw Sandler winning a Green Jacket at the Masters rather than the Tour Championship’s Gold Jacket. Many of Herlihy and Sandler’s ideas were so unrealistic but that’s just a beauty of the comedy and why it is now a cult comedy. Bob Barker’s recent passing will probably introduce a new generation of Happy Gilmore fans.

Sports comedies can be a tricky genre to pull off but Happy Gilmore manages to hit it in the hole more often than not. Who the hell is Happy Gilmore? A winning golfer, that’s who.

DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan
SCREENWRITER: Tim Herliy & Adam Sandler
CAST: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Frances Bay, and Carl Weathers

Universal released Happy Gilmore in theaters on February 16, 1996. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.