With live sports on pause and most people stuck at home due to the coronavirus, hockey fans have to find other ways to pass the time. Watching a good hockey movie can certainly help. No doubt you will see plenty of lists on what are the best hockey movies to watch (including ours), but I'll let you in on a secret. Most people doing these lists didn't just watch all the movies they are listing. It's not like I watched all four movies I put on the "must see" list the night before just to make sure they each hold up. The fact is, most of the hockey movies we love, many of us haven't seen in years. Some of us haven't seen these movies since we were kids.
So how good are they really? Do they actually hold up? With nothing but time on our hands, let's find out.
Every Friday during the pause, I'll have a hockey movie review in which I will watch a movie the night before, take notes and provide those notes and a grade for each movie just to see how good they really are.
This week's movie: "Happy Gilmore"
This was one of my favorite movies growing up. Many of you may not remember, but Adam Sandler used to make funny movies. Not movies that are just called "comedies" despite being unfunny because we don't know what else to call them, but I mean movies that would actually make you laugh. "Happy Gilmore" was one of his best.
I felt when I saw this movie like it was written specifically for me as it combines both my love for hockey and my deep-rooted hatred for golf. I remember seeing this movie for the first time in middle school at a friend's house. We rewound the scene where the main character, Happy Gilmore, punches a spectator out of his shirt about 10 times.
Gilmore, played by Sandler, loves hockey and dreams of playing professionally, but he is horrible at just about every aspect of the game except for his great slap shot. His grandmother's house gets repossessed as she has not paid her taxes in over 10 years and Gilmore decides to become a professional golfer to try to get the house back despite never having played the game and pretty much hating everything about it.
The story is a fun intersection of two cultures that seemingly do not have much in common. Sure, I know there are plenty of people out there who enjoy both hockey and golf, but picture a typical hockey fan in your head and a typical golf fan. They're pretty different, aren't they? Seeing how hockey fans and people who actually like to do things like cheer and have fun at sporting events invade the golf course is half the fun of the movie.
The cast is excellent. Sandler is very funny as Gilmore, but Christopher McDonald is perfect as the villain, Shooter McGavin, as is Frances Bay who plays Gilmore's grandmother. Carl Weathers also brings his A-game as Gilmore's instructor, "Chubbs." Julie Bowen is fine as Gilmore's love interest, Virginia Venit, though the movie doesn't give her much to do. By the way, I had no idea she was the mom in "Modern Family" until just now.
- The movie is evidently based on a childhood friend of Sandler's who played hockey and always beat Sandler at golf.
- Vincent Lecavalier is in this movie. He's one of the players in the tryout at the beginning who makes the team over Gilmore...for obvious reasons.
- McDonald turned down the role of Shooter McGavin more than once before sitting down with Sandler to talk about the movie.
Here are my notes when watching the movie:
- Gilmore can't skate, but is a good fighter with a monster slap shot. I feel like there would have been a place for him on the fourth line in the 80s and 90s. If not in the NHL, then certainly in the AHL where half the team was employed essentially just to protect the future NHL players.
- I forgot Gilmore's first girlfriend early in the movie was a kindergarten teacher. My wife is too. I'm going to have to tell her, "I've seen those finger paintings you bring home and they suck!" and see if she gets the reference. Now that I think about it, I don't think she has ever brought finger paintings home. I'm not sure that is a thing anymore.
- Ben Stiller as the mean orderly at the nursing home is one of the best cameos ever. By the way, when Gilmore tries to pay him to take extra care of his grandmother, he tries to slip him a single dollar bill.
- "Golf is no different than hockey." Uh, yeah it is. Sorry Chubbs, I'm not buying it.
- Every time I watch this and Gilmore says, "Golf requires goofy pants and a fat ass" I stand and applaud.
- Every time my wife tells me something hurts, I always tell her good news! Now you're back's going to hurt because you just pulled landscaping duty. We have a very happy marriage.
- When Venit and the tour president are discussing whether to kick Gilmore off the tour for his behavior, you can hear him swearing in the background on the TV. Brilliant scene.
- Why does Shooter care at all about Gilmore? The interview he does after the first even really sets the stage. He just won and all the questions he is getting are about this guy who just showed up out of nowhere and is terrible. He is finally the best golfer in the world and he is being overshadowed by this side-show. Sometimes the motivation for villains can be glossed over or are so cartoonishly stupid you don't really understand what the movie is going for. In this case, I get it.
- I can't hear the song "Endless Love" without picturing the Zamboni driver singing it in the dark after seeing this movie.
- I would think it would be frowned upon for PR of the tour to date the golfers, but that's just me.
- The best scene in the movie? The fistfight with Bob Barker. Barker did all his own stunts in the movie, too.
- "The price is wrong, *Bob*." If you have ever watched this movie on TV, you probably know exactly what I'm referencing.
- How have I never seen this before now!?!
- I never watch golf, but the Pro-Am heckler which led to Gilmore fighting Barker, wouldn't they have tossed him from the crowd? I mean, I think golf would be better if people were allowed to cheer and golfers just had to battle through it, but I know that's not how it is so wouldn't he have gotten booted?
- Something I have never understood. Shooter buys grandma's house to try to force Gilmore out of the tour and agrees to give it to him if he quits. Gilmore then makes a bet with him that if he wins the championship, he gets the house, but if he loses to Shooter he'll quit. Doesn't that mean Gilmore would have gotten the house either way? If he wins, he gets it, if he loses, he quits and still gets the house. So why is Shooter trash-talking during the championship about what he's going to do with the house? And if you understand the bet to mean that if Gilmore loses the championship, he loses the house too, that's a dumb bet. He should have just taken Shooter's offer and quit.
- I mean...Gilmore did kind of kill Chubbs, right? Right?
- In the scene where Gilmore overshoots the hole and the ball slowly turns and makes its way back in, the camera goes to an overhead view and you can see the divots in the green that they used to get the ball to turn.
- So let's get this straight. A guy manages to drive his car onto the course, run over one of the golfers and...they just keep playing? Not only should they not have let Gilmore keep playing, they should have shut the whole thing down. The tower collapses on the last hole because they just left the car there after it had crashed. No one moved it!
- You have to give credit to Shooter, that was a heck of a shot off of a guy's foot.
- In most versions of the movie, you never see the evil orderly (played by Ben Stiller) get his comeuppance. He does in a deleted scene where Gilmore tosses him out of a second-story window and all the people run out of the front door.
Final grade: A-
While "Happy Gilmore" ultimately does not have that much to do with hockey, it is a hilarious movie and remains very funny even 24 years later. I may find it a little funnier than most because of my affinity for hockey and hatred for golf, but even the biggest golfers out there won't feel alienated by this. This is one of Sandler's best back when he was still making great comedies.
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