Big Daddy

USA 1999

Reviewed by Kevin Maher


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

In his Manhattan apartment, law-school graduate Sonny Koufax is dumped by his girlfriend Vanessa. That night, before leaving for China, his flatmate Kevin announces his engagement to girlfriend Corinne. The next day a five-year-old boy, Julian, is dropped at Sonny's apartment, claiming to be Kevin's son. Sonny spends a day with Julian and decides to adopt him in order to impress Vanessa. Believing Sonny to be Kevin, social services agree with the decision. Sonny calls at Vanessa's apartment with Julian, where she reveals that she's having an affair.

Sonny allows Julian to do whatever he likes. He meets Corinne's sister Layla and invites her out on a date. After being told by Julian's headmistress that Julian is falling behind in class, Sonny begins to keep Julian neat and tidy, and improve his school work. Social services realise their mistake, take Julian into care and prosecute Sonny. In court Layla acts as Sonny's defence lawyer but his negative character witnesses hamper his case. At the last minute Kevin refuses to press charges against Sonny. Kevin decides to take over the parenting of Julian. Some time later, Sonny is a lawyer married to Layla with a child of their own.


Not since the breakthrough movies of Jerry Lewis - The Bellboy (1960), The Errand Boy (1961) and The Patsy (1964) - has there been a performer with as strict an authorial control over his comic persona as Adam Sandler. Like Lewis, Sandler has been heavily involved in the production of his films to create a man-child character, unchanging from movie to movie, of unerring stupidity but displaying charming flashes of self-effacing naivety. With Big Daddy Sandler, as co-writer and executive producer, remains loyal to his previous films Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy, presenting us with another maladjusted outsider, Sonny Koufax. Only this time Sonny, a law-school prodigy living off a compensation claim, is a slacker by choice and not necessity.

The movie opens on familiar Sandler ground. First Sonny's father warns him that he needs to grow up (pace Billy Madison), and then, in a dialogue exchange lifted practically verbatim from Happy Gilmore, Sonny's girlfriend Vanessa announces that she's leaving him because "You refuse to move out of the second phase of your life!" But whereas in Gilmore Sandler had to prove his worth by growing up and finding money for his homeless granny, here he demonstrates that juvenile knows best by parenting homeless five-year-old Julian (twins Cole and Dylan Sprouse). And so begins a lazy retread of that sentimental Hollywood tale, seen in such films as Little Miss Marker (1934) and 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), where a disreputable adult (usually a bookie, or a casino manager) is purified by the love of abandoned child.

Unfortunately, Big Daddy's biggest draw, the Sandler persona, is also its biggest flaw. Sandler has made Sonny almost embarrassingly invincible. He can solve complex legal cases in seconds, he can be goofy and attractive with new girlfriend Layla, or he can be authoritative and intimidating to total strangers. Surrounded by people who either fear him or worship him, Sonny ultimately comes across as a flat, unappealing bully. In what surely must be the film's comic nadir, Sonny even breaks into the flat of an elderly Upper East Sider when the unfortunate man refuses to comply with Julian's trick-or-treat demands.

The simplistic shooting structure which slavishly separates comic set-pieces and plot exposition with musical montages doesn't help things. That the court battle itself turns out to be risible is hardly a surprise. The film's real shock comes in its final moments. After hinting at Sonny's future as a househusband ("I'm in love with a young girl who makes plenty of money!" he exults), the film suddenly shows its true conservative colours. The closing shot reveals former power-dresser Layla in dowdy maternal prints holding onto her very own baby, while husband Sonny breezes into the bar in a corporate suit, flush with victory, and straight off the latest hot court case. Big Daddy? Sure, but for how long?


Sid Ganis
Jack Giarraputo
Steve Franks
Tim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Steve Franks
Director of Photography
Theo Van de Sande
Jeff Gourson
Production Designer
Perry Andelin Blake
Teddy Castellucci
©Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc
Production Companies
Columbia Pictures presents an Out of the Blue Entertainment/Jack Giarraputo production
Executive Producers
Adam Sandler
Robert Simonds
Joseph M. Caracciolo
Alex Siskin
Associate Producers
Michelle Holdsworth
Allen Covert
Production Supervisor
David J. Grant
Production Co-ordinator
Debra Tanklow
Unit Production Manager
Cheryl Quarantiello Schnitzler
Location Manager
Justin Cooke
Assistant Directors
Glen Trotiner
Dean Garvin
Tim Donahue
Script Supervisor
Lisa Katcher
Roger Mussenden
Elizabeth Boykewich
Camera Operators
David Knox
Chris Hayes
Steadicam Operator
David Knox
Visual Effects
Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Sheena Duggal
Visual Effects Producer:
Julia Rivas
High Speed Compositing Artist:
Doug Forrest
Additional Visual Effects
Station X
Art Director
Rick Butler
Set Decorator
Leslie Bloom
Costume Designer
Ellen Lutter
Wardrobe Supervisors
Winsome McCoy
Heidi Shulman
Key Make-up
Carla White
Key Hair
Victor De Nicola
Pacific Title/Mirage
Cinema Research Corporation
Pete Anthony
Jon Kull
Tom Mgrdichian
Music Supervisor
Michael Dilbeck
Music Co-ordinators
Lori Lahman
Wende Geikie
Score Producer
Brooks Arthur
Supervising Music Editor
Stephen Lotwis
Music Editor
Stuart Grusin
Music Recorder/Mixer
Gabe Veltri
"Passing Me By (LP Version)" by Trevant Hardson, Emandu Wilcox, Romeye Robinson, Derek Stewart, John Martinez, Steve Boone, John Sebastian, performed by The Pharcyde; "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Neil Young, performed by Everlast, White Folx; "Ga Ga" by Melanie Chisholm, Phil Thornalley, Dave Munday, performed by Melanie C; "Instant Pleasure" by Seth Swirsky, performed by Rufus Wainwright; "Fooled around and Fell in Love" by/performed by Elvin Bishop; "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart, performed by Eurythmics; "When I Grow Up" by/performed by Garbage; "Dancin' in the Moonlight" by Sherman Kelly, performed by The CrownSayers; "Blue Collar Man" by Tommy Shaw, performed by Styx; "Just Like This" by Fred Durst, Wes Borland, Sam Rivers, John Otto, performed by Limp Bizkit; "The Kangaroo Song" by Allen Covert, Cheryl Hardwick, performed by Tim Herlihy; "Ooh La La" by Theo Keating, performed by Wise Guys; "If I Can't Have You" by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, performed by Yvonne Elliman; "Jump" by Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, performed by Van Halen; "O Sole Mio" by Giovanni Capurro, Eduardo DiCapua, Alfredo Mazzucchi, performed by Jorge Buccio; "The Best of Times" by Dennis DeYoung, performed by (1) Jorge Buccio, (2) Styx; "Rush" by Mick Jones, performed by Big Audio Dynamite; "Growin' Up" by/performed by Bruce Springsteen; "Babe" by Dennis DeYoung, performed by Styx; "Save It for later" by The Beat, performed by Harvey Danger; "It's Now or Never" by Wally Gold, Aaron Schroeder, performed by Jorge Buccio; "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, Axel Rose, Slash, performed by (1) Sheryl Crow, (2) Guns 'n' Roses; "What Is Life" by George Harrison, performed by Shawn Mullins
Sound Mixer
Tod Maitland
Re-recording Mixers
Paul Massey
Chris Boyes
Supervising Sound Editor
Mike Wilhoit
Dialogue Editors
Laura R. Harris
Kimaree Long
Sound Effects Editors
Scott Sanders
Dino DiMuro
Hector Gika
Supervising Editor:
Kelly L. Oxford
Gary Hecker
Michael Broomberg
Richard Duarte
Supervising Editor:
Christopher Hogan
Stunt Co-ordinators
Roy Farfel
George Aguilar
Film Extracts
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Adam Sandler
Sonny Koufax
Joey Lauren Adams
Layla Maloney
Jon Stewart
Kevin Gerrity
Allen Covert
Rob Schneider
delivery guy
Josh Mostel
Mr Brooks
Cole Sprouse
Dylan Sprouse
Leslie Mann
Kristy Swanson
Joe Bologna
Mr Koufax
Peter Dante
Jonathan Loughran
Steve Buscemi
homeless guy
Tim Herlihy
singing kangaroo
Edmund Lyndeck
old man
Larkin Malloy
restaurant owner
Samantha Brown
Neal Huff
Geoffrey Horn
Greg Haberny
NYU student
Jacqueline Titone
George Hall
elderly driver
Peggy Shay
lady at tollbooth
Alfonso Ramirez
Salvatore Cavaliere
angry motorist
Kelly Dugan
Jared Sandler
Jillian Sandler
Helen Lloyd breed
Ms Foote
Chloé Hult
Carmen DeLavallade
Steve Brill
Glen Trotiner
Jorge Buccio
Cat Jagar
Deborah S. Craig
Nicholas Taylor
older kid
Cole Hawkins
Gabriel Jacobs
Michael Arcate
broken arm kid
Gaetano Lisi
hot dog vendor
Michael Giarraputo
Hoboken motorist
Steve Glenn
guy at party
Al Cerullo
helicopter pilot
Dennis Dugan
reluctant trick-or-treater
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,369 feet
92 minutes 59 seconds
Dolby digital/SDDS/Digital DTS sound
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011