Movie Reviews

10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching Happy Gilmore, 28 Years Later

Summary

  • Happy Gilmore’s bravado would be fitting in modern sports culture.
  • Subway sponsoring Happy may be less believable in today’s athletic environment.
  • Happy’s anger issues and violent outbursts would face more scrutiny today.



Happy Gilmore remains an early highlight of Adam Sandler’s career, but there are some harsh truths about the nearly thirty-year-old movie that ring harsher in the modern day. The film stars Sandler as the titular Happy, a wannabee hockey player with a fiery temper and a good heart. Discovering a surprising adaptability to golf, Happy shifts to the sport to save his grandmother’s house. The comedy also stars Carl Weathers, Julie Bowen, and Christopher McDonald, and remains a deceptively sweet-hearted slapstick sports comedy.

There are some elements of the film that are a lot harsher under a bit of modern scrutiny, however. That’s part of what makes the announcement that a Happy Gilmore sequel is currently in development all the more exciting, as Sandler’s beloved early comedy has plenty of room to explore. Some deceptively heavy moments in the film are brushed aside, including how quickly Happy’s own flaws would have further complicated his situation. Here are the harshest realities of Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore characters and story from a modern perspective.


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10 Happy Gilmore Isn’t Such A Trailblazer Compared To Modern Sports

Happy’s Bravado Would Feel Right At Home In The Modern Day

Many elements of Happy Gilmore would feel out of place in the modern world, especially Happy’s quick ascent in the world of sports. One of the big draws of Happy Gilmore is seeing the volatile and blue-collar Adam Sandler character dealing with the inherent stuffiness of the golfing world. Compared to most of his competition, Happy’s bombastic personality stands out and earns him massive popularity with the sport’s fanbase. Happy would have a number of peers in that regard today, however.


Happy’s goofy overconfidence and overwhelming skill are closer to the bravado and emotion seen in modern sports. Happy’s outbursts would likely feel right at home alongside the taunting taking place across leagues. Looking back, Happy’s surprising in-universe popularity would now likely be the result of his antics going viral, spreading out across social media. Happy’s uniqueness as an openly emotional player in the film feels more representative of modern athletes than it did in 1996.

9 Happy’s Subway Connection Wouldn’t Be As Likely

Happy Would Have A Lot Of Subway Competition


When Happy initially seems unable to procure the money necessary to save his grandmother’s house, he ultimately turns to Subway for a lucrative sponsorship deal. Happy notably pulls this off incredibly quickly, earning the money with a commercial spot. However, Subway has become much more commonplace for athletic sponsorship. Since Happy Gilmore premiered, major athletes like Steph Curry, Simone Biles, Marshawn Lynch, Derek Jeter, and more have worked with Subway to promote their restaurant chain.

This means that Happy’s sudden realization that he can turn to Subway feels less like a goofy realization and more like a typical athletic branding deal. There’s also the fact that in retrospect, Happy would be unlikely to earn that commercial appearance so quickly, especially with the number of other competing athletes who could take that sponsorship instead. It makes the sudden success of the commercial and the windfall it produces for Happy less believable in a unique way.


8 Happy’s Anger Problems Shouldn’t Be Brushed Aside

Happy Can Actually Be Pretty Scary

Happy Gilmore’s temper is one of the biggest character flaws the character works to overcome. When the movie was initially released, it was an easy way for the film to highlight his immaturity and passion. From a modern perspective though, Happy’s outbursts are far more problematic. At various points in the film, Happy lashes out at people and even openly curses out his own equipment. It’s volatile and even fundamentally worrying behavior to see on display, especially on such a large televised stage.


Although he eventually learns to restrain himself and finds inner peace thanks to Chubb’s mentorship, Happy’s anger makes him a genuine threat to others around him. The character suddenly assaults a lot of characters in the film, which would cause a host of problems in the modern day. While they may vary in intent or maliciousness, the other characters in the film are right to call him out for letting loose so furiously on others in a public space, and Happy’s need to overcome that is something reflected in Adam Sandler’s idea for Happy Gilmore 2.

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7 Happy’s Mission To Save His Grandmother’s House Feels A Lot Harsher (And More Realistic)

At the core of Happy Gilmore is a mission to save his Grandmother’s house. Early in the film, it’s revealed that Happy’s Grandmother hadn’t paid her taxes for years, leading the IRS to repossess the house to auction it off. It’s a humanizing beat that helps give Happy a genuine reason to throw himself into the world of golf. In the years since, however, that sort of event has become a far more pressing matter in the real world. Multiple financial crises have occurred in the United States (and across the globe at large ) that have resulted in countless families losing their homes.


In the 21st century, Happy’s efforts to save his grandmother’s house at all costs feels much realer than it did upon release. The fact that the house is almost immediately auctioned off beyond what Happy can pay for is another sadly realistic element of the modern housing market that gives the film an extra bit of emotional punch. Happy being forced to take on a job he initially hates just so he can save a family member’s home hits a lot closer to home for most audiences than it did when the film was first released.

6 Adam Sandler Hadn’t Reached His True Acting Potential Yet

Happy Gilmore 2 Will Star An Adam Sandler Who’s Grown As An Actor


When Happy Gilmore came out, Adam Sandler had primarily established himself in broad comedies like Billy Madison or sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live. This is reflected in Happy Gilmore, where Sandler plays Happy with a broad emotional core. He’s a volatile character with a vulnerable side, steadily developing a calmness that wins him the day. Sandler does fine in the role but is best when the movie lets him go big and goofy. However, Sandler has since proven to be a deceptively impressive dramatic actor, with a far wider range than characters like Happy Gilmore initially suggested.

Films like The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy highlight how Sandler could blend his cartoonish antics with a more compelling and grounded character. Punch Drunk Love and Uncut Gems further showcased his dramatic chops, subverting his archetypical characters for great dramatic effect. Sandler gives a solid performance in Happy Gilmore, but his later films highlight how much more Sandler could have brought to the character (and hopefully will with the upcoming return to the character in Happy Gilmore 2).


5 Happy Gilmore Could Be Justifiably Fired Or Arrested

Happy Commits A Lot Of Assault

Happy Gilmore’s outbursts are usually played for laughs in Happy Gilmore, but the character honestly does more than enough violent things to be justifiably fired or even arrested. Before he even becomes a pro athlete, Happy’s first attempt at a golf swing knocks a woman out of her house and sends her tumbling to the ground. This would make him likely liable for any injuries she suffered. Before then, he’d attacked a coach for mocking him. He casually threatens characters like Shooter, in public. It all builds to the film’s iconic fight with Bob Barker, which almost gets Happy kicked off the pro tour.


While no charges are brought against him and his popularity with young audiences ensures he’s only suspended for his violent antics, it’s genuinely surprising from a modern perspective that Happy didn’t face consequences for his outbursts. It’s one of the more exciting elements of a prospective Happy Gilmore 2. Happy’s previous actions that were brushed aside in the past would likely be grounds for far more scrutiny in the modern day, highlighting the importance of his continued growth.

4 Shooter Is A Massive Jerk (And No One Truly Calls Him On It)

Shooter Does Some Genuinely Cruel Things In Happy Gilmore


Christopher McDonald’s Shooter McGavin is the antagonist of Happy Gilmore, an over-confident and vindictive golfer who comes to see Happy as a threat to his belief that he’s overdue for glory. While some characters call out Shooter for his personality and he ultimately gets his comeuppance at the end of the film, Shooter honestly gets away with most of his abuses. A popular golfer in his own right, Shooter’s mean-spirited jabs are largely allowed by the higher-ups who could (and should) call him out, making his anger at Happy all the more hypocritical.

His casually sexist treatment of Virginia is never commented on, with the pro tour’s high-ranking media liaison forced to take Shooter’s snide requests for a soda or updates about his jacket size. Shooter also plays a part in actively sabotaging an opponent and is untimely the one responsible for getting Happy run over by a car in the middle of a tournament. That feels like a genuine crime that Shooter’s never called out on. Shooter may fail to win the tournament and is implied to be physically beaten by the end of the film (another example of the violence that feels out of place in modern comedies), but there’s no acknowledgment that he’ll actually face genuine consequences for his actions.


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3 Happy Getting Hit By A Car Is Brushed Over Way Too Quickly

When Happy Gilmore Becomes Too Much Like A Cartoon

During the climactic game between Happy and Shooter, the former’s surprising improvement in his short game earns him an advantage. To that end, Shooter brings back Donald to try and complicate the game for Happy. Donald escalates to an extreme, driving his car onto the golf course and running Happy over. It’s an over-the-top beat that seems especially egregious from a modern perspective, where drivers suddenly shooting forward have proven to be fatal threats.


The fact that the event is quickly brushed off so quickly and Happy almost immedatley resumes playing (albeit with some initial difficulty) is when the movie’s sense of reality becomes most elastic. The film brushes the moment off and uses it to bring Happy back down at a climactic moment. In light of other public events where drivers used their cars to attack people in public spaces, this moment feels especially grim — especially because Donald is shown fleeing the scene and ultimately faces no clear consequences for his actions by the end of the film.

2 Ben Stiller Is Quietly Horrifying In Happy Gilmore

Ben Stiller Just Gets Away With Some Pretty Horrifying Behavior


Ben Stiller appears in Happy Gilmore in a relatively minor role as Hal, a senior community administrator. While he overtly presents himself to Happy as a kindly and empathetic soul, in reality, he’s a cruel taskmaster who threatens Happy’s grandmother with physical violence. He abuses the elderly, forcing them to craft goods he can sell while pocketing all the money. Those who talk back are forced to take part in physical labor, and are openly threatened. It’s a dark gag that ultimately goes nowhere, as the character disappears after the focus shifts away from the retirement home.

Similar to Donald and Shooter, the villainous Hal ultimately doesn’t seem to pay any true consequences for his actions, which feels especially galling when he justifiably should have drawn Happy. While Shooter is at least beaten up and there’s a chance Donald is caught after hitting Happy with his car, Hal’s crimes may remain a secret. This could allow him to continue abusing the elderly in his care, which feels like an unusually bitter truth about the film, making his potential return in Happy Gilmore 2 more important than almost any other minor character in the original film.


1 Happy’s Father Is Missing From The Final Scene

A Weird Omission In Happy Gilmore‘s Ending

One of the most glaring parts of Happy Gilmore comes at the end of the film. In the movie’s final moments, Happy reflects on his life and looks to the heavens. Above the clouds, he sees the image of Chubbs, as well as the alligator that Happy was eventually able to get revenge on. Abe Lincoln is also there, smiling down at Happy. However, Happy’s father is missing from the shot, which feels like a wasted opportunity in retrospect.


Happy’s relationship with his father was a big part of the character’s origins, and his premature death in Happy’s childhood led him to his grandmother’s care. Seeing his father smiling down at him alongside another mentor figure like Chubbs would have been a sweet final touch to the scene. Instead, the absence of Happy’s father feels especially weird, and undercuts the otherwise sweet and goofy ending of Happy Gilmore in a surprisingly harsh turn.

Happy Gilmore Movie Poster

Happy Gilmore (1996)

Happy Gilmore is a sports comedy that sees the titular Happy adjust to the world of Golf after failing to make it into Hockey. When he finds that his grandmother is nearly about to lose her home, Happy is discovered by a pro golfer who promises to train him to be one of the best after seeing his otherworldly slapshot. What follows is a new take on golf that completely upends the sport by turning it into a hilarious and chaotic spectator sport as this former short-tempered hockey player jumps into the world of professional golf.

Director
Dennis Dugan

Release Date
February 16, 1996

Cast
Adam Sandler , Christopher McDonald , Julie Bowen , Frances Bay , Carl Weathers , Allen Covert

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