The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, February 19, 1995              TAG: 9502170104
TYPE: Movie review
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   79 lines


THE QUESTION remains: Can Adam Sandler become a star after ``Billy Madison?''

The answer, in a world where ``Dumb and Dumber'' is a box office hit, is probably in the affirmative.

Billy Madison is the latest, and one of the most aggressive, morons to come along in the movie-comedy sweepstakes. Billy, when we first meet him, is a bumbling idiot who spends his time smearing on suntan lotion and swigging down a daiquiri or two. His millionaire Daddy (Darren McGavin) is getting a bit tired of this, and demands that Billy go through all 12 grades again. This time, Daddy is refusing to pay off the teachers to pass him. The back-to-school bit is not a very original ploy, but it usually works. Even Rodney Dangerfield (in ``Back to School'') scored a hit when he went to college. ``Billy Madison's'' aims are lower.

Billy is to start back in the first grade and spend two weeks in each grade. If Billy doesn't make it through school, his father's chain of hotels go to the smarmy villain and Billy will presumably go to a mental clinic (or an alcoholics' home). The villain wears a tie, but there is never any indication that Billy might be a free, independent spirit that would allow us to like his alternative style. Even his motivation is one of greed.

This dumb idea could nonetheless have been made into something, with hints of ``Big.'' We could have had Billy learning how to be a child again, rather than an idiot again. We could have had some type of generation gap humor. Instead, what we get are a few bathroom jokes, lots of noise and, after 88 minutes of no-brain squirming, a stumbling retreat to the exit.

This is not to say that there is no sign of talent in the exuberant Sandler. He has survived flops before. In fact, he was quite funny in the underrated ``Airheads.'' He flashes his teeth with abandon and wears a baseball cap as if he were really a kid.

The ``Saturday Night Live'' alumnus is free of canteens and operas in this outing and may be the victim of producers who are trying to avoid the missteps of Pauly Shore while grooming another Jim Carrey. Sandler is not bashful in his willingness to try anything but, at least with this material, he lacks the exuberance and unpredictability of Carrey. We could have watched Carrey do this same material and still endured it because he manages to suggest that he knows better.

Since Sandler co-wrote ``Billy Madison,'' there's little excuse.

There are food fights and he gets to ogle his teacher. Surprise! Surprise! With volleyball, though, he's mean in picking on the little tots. In fact there is a rather smirky tone that makes the whole thing unacceptable for small kids, who should have been its target audience. With Chris Farley and Steve Buscemi offering cameo bits, the aim is, apparently, a bit higher. At best, high school students might see it as harmlessly dopey.

Sandler, who shows every sign of having enough energy to make the grade, should forget about imitating Jim Carrey and find an act of his own. ILLUSTRATION: Photo


Miss Lippy (Dina Platias) offers words of wisdom to her oldest

student, Billy Madison (Adam Sandler), in this silly comedy.



``Billy Madison''

Cast: Adam Sandler, Bradley Whitford, Josh Mostel, Bridgette

Wilson, Darren McGavin

Director: Tamra Davis

Screenplay: Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler

Music: Randy Edelman

MPAA rating: PG-13 (bathroom jokes, mild profanity)

Mal's rating: One star

Locations: Chesapeake Square in Chesapeake; Janaf and Main Gate

in Norfolk; Columbus, Kemps River, Lynnhaven 8 and Surf-N-Sand in

Virginia Beach

by CNB