In Big Daddy, Adam Sandler plays Sonny Koufax, a former law student who has forsaken his chosen profession after collecting a hefty personal-injury settlement. To forestall accusations of chronic laziness, Sonny works one day a week as a tollbooth clerk, but mostly he just sorta, y’know, hangs out.
Then one day, in a plot twist shamelessly swiped from ”Three Men and a Baby,” he winds up saddled with his absent roommate’s 5-year-old son, Julian (played by twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse, both of whom either have or affect a cloyingly cute speech impediment). Desperate to prove to his fed-up girlfriend (Kristy Swanson) that he’s capable of acting responsibly, he impulsively decides to ”adopt” the kid, whereupon the pair proceed to spend a great deal of time just sorta, y’know, hanging out.
With no real plot to distract us, we’re left only with endless preadolescent high jinks and the force of Sandler’s personality, which isn’t exactly hurricane-strength. To be frank, what he fundamentally seems to be, here and elsewhere, is ”lazy.” That’d be just fine if laziness were his shtick, as miserliness was Jack Benny’s and oafishness was Chris Farley’s, but the trouble is that it’s not Sandler’s screen persona who seems to be exerting as little energy as possible – it’s Sandler himself.
Watching one of his movies is like watching entertainment created by your goof-off neighbors down the block; the entire project gives the impression of having been tossed together, during
a slow weekend, by guys who didn’t know what else to do after the home team got eliminated from the play-offs.
In a way, I suppose that his blasé, I-just-work-here (and-don’t-blame-me-if-they-pay-me-almost-20-mil) quality makes Sandler the ideal star for the age of video – an age in which small, versatile camcorders allow virtually anybody to create personal mini-dramas in the backyard – and I can’t really say that I mean that as a compliment.