Billy Madison is an American comedy film directed by Tamra Davis and starring Adam Sandler. It was Sandler’s first performance as the leading man in a feature film, and showcased Sandler’s trademark lowbrow humor. Though critically panned, Billy Madison proved popular with audiences and helped launch Sandler’s movie career.
Sandler plays the titular Madison, the son of a hotel chain owner who has never had to work for a living. Instead, he uses his father’s money to go drinking with his friends and pull juvenile pranks. When Billy ruins a business dinner, however, his father decides that he has had enough and announces that he will hand over control of the company to Eric, his scheming vice-president. Billy, who already hates Eric, objects vehemently, saying he has the knowledge to run the company responsibly, but his father reveals that his teachers were bribed so that Billy could pass each grade in school. The two agree that Billy can keep his inheritance if he manages to complete grades 1-12 in 24 weeks. At school, Billy wins over his third-grade teacher Veronica Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson), to whom he is attracted. But his rapid ascent to high school worries Eric, who resorts to underhanded tricks to keep Billy from getting the education he needs to win back his father’s respect.
Billy Madison was greeted with poor reviews critically upon its release in February 1995, with Roger Ebert comparing Sandler’s presence onscreen to “fingernails on the chalkboard.” Nevertheless, Sandler–who had gained a following for his performances on Saturday Night Live–found enough sympathetic audiences to star in Happy Gilmore the following year. The two films became the basis for Sandler’s successful film career, and the actor later named his production company after them (“Happy Madison”).
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