Box Office: $25.6 Million
Oscar Nominations: None
Oscar Wins: None
Available To Stream: Peacock, Amazon Prime ($4)
SOURCE - Behind the bland, seemingly innocent title of Billy Madison lurks one of the most outrageously bad movies in recent memory, a misfire so ridiculously and consistently off-target from anything remotely resembling a good film. Billy Madison is a sorry excuse for a movie, and director Tamra Davis (CB4, Guncrazy) and star Sandler should be very embarrassed.
That was a review from the Austin Chronicle. There are a bunch just like that from other critics like Gene Siskel and publications like Variety, Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly. Critics didn't just like Billy Madison, they HATED it. They were literally talking about the debut film of one of the biggest comedy superstars ever and you'd think they ate dog shit.
It's wild how out of touch the critics were on this. It makes me a little fearful. I'm sure we all get to a point where something comes out and we have just the completely wrong take on a movie just because we are too old for it. Comedy especially is geared to younger people. I don't think I'll ever laugh as much at a comedy like I did in the theaters when I was a teenager. It's the same reason Baby Boomers will talk about Animal House to anyone that will listen. It's sad that something as simple as laughing hysterically at a movie fades with time.
Billy Madison only cost $10 million to make so it did make a profit (and cleared the way for Sandler to star in Happy Gilmore). It also did open at number one which shocked people at the time. On that same weekend in February 1995, The Quick & The Dead opened. That starred Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and a very young Leonardo DiCaprio. If you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out. It was supposed to be a solid hit and instead this beat it which lead to a lot of pearl clutching from people.
Even with it opening number one, it's still strange to see how little money it made the box office. It finished with $26 million. Compared to the $100 million dollar hits Sandler would eventually do like Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy and The Waterboy, that seems like a very small take. Plus, I like Billy Madison more than those movies.
This must have been a very strange time for Sandler. Just three months after this came out, he was fired from Saturday Night Live. The show wanted to get away from the type of comedy Sandler and Chris Farley did. A lot of that pressure to fire these guys came from constant negative reviews from critics like the above who thought this comedy was sophomoric. Which, it is. But it's also really funny.
If you don't think this scene is funny, I don't know what to tell you.
Just because something is goofy and silly, that doesn't necessarily make it bad. That's the magic of this movie. It also doesn't mean it is stupid. Billy Madison is not a good person. He really doesn't strive to be one. The movie is asking the audience to root for him. The concept of anti-hero is more sophisticated than a pure hero. But critics of that time didn't look at that at all. They just got offended and moved on.
I expect one day, I'll react to newer comedies the same way. I hope I won't but it seems inevitable. At least I'm able enjoy this lovely song the rest of my days.
73. Billy Madison
74. Apollo 13
77. Cape Fear
78. The River Wild
80. 12 Monkeys
81. Stir Of Echoes
83. Total Recall
84. Quiz Show
87. Men In Black
90. Three Kings
95. Dirty Work
98. Any Given Sunday