Happy Gilmore is a 1996 American sports comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan with music by Mark Mothersbaugh and produced by Robert Simonds. It stars Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Carl Weathers, Frances Bay and Adam Sandler as the title character, an unsuccessful ice hockey player who discovers a talent for golf. The screenplay was written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy. The film was released in cinemas on February 16, 1996 by Universal Pictures. Happy Gilmore received negative reviews from critics and it earned $41.2 million on a $12 million budget. This film was the first of multiple collaborations between Sandler and Dugan. The film was nominated for a Sound Effects award; foley artists spent over 40 hours designing, improving, and perfecting the sound of Adam Sandler’s golf swing and won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Fight" for Adam Sandler versus Bob Barker.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is an aspiring ice hockey player who possesses a powerful and dangerous slapshot that his late father (Louis O'Donoghue) taught him as a child (Donnie MacMillan), though his over aggressive streak and lack of skating talent consistently preclude him from joining a hockey team. His girlfriend Terry (Nancy McClure), a schoolteacher, leaves him because of his hockey obsession.

His grandmother (Frances Bay), who raised him after his father died and Happy's mother had left the family, has not paid her taxes for many years. As such, she owes the IRS $270,000 in back taxes, and the house that Happy's late grandfather "built with his bare hands" is about to be seized. Gilmore has only 90 days to come up with the money or else the house will be sold to someone else. Grandma Gilmore is forced to temporarily move into a retirement home, run by a sadistic manager named Hal (Ben Stiller in an uncredited role). While repossessing Grandma's furniture, a pair of movers challenge Happy to hit golf balls. With his unorthodox, hockey slapshot-style swing (running up to the ball instead of standing over it), he hits the ball 400 yards three times, winning $40 as a result. This gives Happy the idea to go to the driving range to hustle golfers with his swing. When his progress is noticed by former golf star and current club pro Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers), whose pro golf career ended when his right hand was bitten off by an alligator in 1965 (though he managed to tear out one of its eyes afterwards), he convinces Happy to enter a local tournament by telling him he can make "big bucks". Happy wins the tournament and earns a spot on the Pro Golf Tour (fictionalized golf tour based on the PGA Tour). Chubbs advises Happy to wait to join the tour for six months, so that Chubbs can make him a better all-around golfer (calling his putting "embarrassing"). Against Chubbs' advice Happy joins the tour immediately to come up with the money for his Grandma's house within three months, which Chubbs is unaware of.

On the tour, Happy encounters Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), who sees Happy as both a detriment to golf and a threat to his career. Although Happy has a powerful drive, his putting is terrible with violent outbursts and lack of golf etiquette eventually leading Commissioner Doug Thompson (Dennis Dugan) to expel him from the tour. PR head Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen) convinces him to change his mind, citing higher television ratings, increasing attendance, drawing more youthful sponsors and that she's willing to work with Gilmore on his anger issues. Thompson threatens to fire her as well if there are any further incidents. Happy begins to develop a cooler head while continuing to improve in tournaments. At the tournament Happy is paired with Bob Barker, then host/executive producer of the long-running CBS Daytime game show The Price Is Right. Donald (Joe Flaherty), employed by Shooter, immediately starts heckling Happy, taking his focus off his game so much that he plays terribly (putting him and Barker in last place). Exasperated at Happy's poor performance, Barker even begins criticizing him before they break into a full-scale brawl, in which Barker knocks Happy unconscious by kicking him in the face. As a result, Thompson fines Gilmore $25,000 and suspends him from the tour for one month; Shooter demands Happy be expelled, but Thompson refuses, citing the highest television ratings ever. Happy secures an endorsement deal with Subway which gives him $275,000, which is more than enough money to buy back Grandma's house and pay the fine.

However, Happy discovers that the house is to be sold at an auction. Despite bidding $275,000, Happy is outbid by Shooter who has purchased the house for $350,000, and leverages a deal with Happy – he will let him have the house back in return for quitting the tour. Although Happy initially accepted the proposal, Virginia convinces him to reconsider. Instead, Happy decides to make a bet with his rival based on the upcoming Tour Championship – if Happy beats Shooter, he gets the house back, but if Shooter beats Happy, he will quit the tour forever; Shooter agrees. Although Virginia is confident Happy will win, Happy is not as confident. He seeks the help of Chubbs, admitting his past mistakes. Together they head to a miniature golf course so Happy can improve his putting. One of Chubbs' key tricks for helping Happy improve by helping him concentrate and relax is to have him think of his own "happy place". Pleased with Happy's progress, Chubbs gives his protege a modified putter fashioned in the shape of a hockey stick as a present to use for the tournament. In return, Happy presents Chubbs with the head of the alligator that took his hand (which Happy had killed in a previous tournament). Horrified by the sight, Chubbs reels backward, causing him to fall out the window to his death.

Determined to win the tournament for Chubbs, Happy is evenly matched with Shooter after the first two rounds and leads Shooter by the end of the third day. In desperation, Shooter once again cheats and calls on Donald. The next day Donald hits Happy with a Volkswagen Beetle, which he then accidentally rams into a television tower at the 18th hole. After an amazing comeback by Happy, Shooter makes his shot for par on the 18th hole; the TV tower collapses and blocks Happy's putt for birdie. Although Virginia suggests play be suspended so the mess can be cleaned up, Shooter protests, citing the fact that earlier he had to hit a ball off a fan (Happy's old boss Mr. Larson (Richard Kiel)'s foot, as his request for a drop was denied). Virginia then tells Happy to go around the tower and then putt for the par and send the tournament to sudden death but instead, he opts to go for the win (the Tour Championship and the house) with the trick shot he learned from Chubbs.

Afterwards, an angry and hysterical Shooter attempts to steal Happy's gold jacket (his prize for winning the tournament), but is chased down and presumably beaten up by Mr. Larson and an angry mob of spectators. Back at Grandma's house, the film closes with Happy being congratulated by the two-handed ghost of Chubbs, Abraham Lincoln, and the alligator.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a young man who wants to be a professional ice hockey player.
  • Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin, an arrogant golfer who is the top player on the "Pro Golf Tour" (fictionalized golf tour based on the PGA Tour).
  • Julie Bowen as Virginia Venit, a public relations director for the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Frances Bay as Grandma Gilmore.
  • Carl Weathers as Chubbs Peterson, a pro golfer who was forced to retire early when his hand was bitten off by an alligator. Weathers reprises the role in Adam Sandler's 2000 film Little Nicky, despite Little Nicky being produced by New Line Cinema.
  • Allen Covert as Otto, a homeless man who becomes Happy's caddy. The character is unnamed in the film (although it is revealed in a deleted scene) but is listed in the end credits. Covert reprises the role in Adam Sandler's 2011 film Jack and Jill, despite being produced by Columbia Pictures.
  • Kevin Nealon as Gary Potter, the eccentric Pro Golf Tour pro Happy plays with in his first tournament.
  • Richard Kiel as Mr. Larson, Happy's towering former boss.
  • Dennis Dugan as Doug Thompson, the commissioner of the Pro Golf Tour.
  • Joe Flaherty as Unruly Fan, Donald
  • Lee Trevino as himself
  • Bob Barker as himself
  • Verne Lundquist as himself
  • Mark Lye as himself
  • Phillip Beer as Cowboy Joe, in the "happy place" sequences
  • Will Sasso as mover
  • Dee Jay Jackson as mover
  • Ben Stiller as Hal L. (uncredited), the sadistic orderly running the nursing home
  • Charles L. Brame as Abe Lincoln (apparently, this actor has appeared exclusively in 6 films, and always playing the role of Abraham Lincoln)
  • Nancy McClure as Terry, a schoolteacher and Happy's girlfriend at the beginning of the film
  • Helena Yea as the Chinese Lady passerby
  • Donnie MacMillan as young Happy
  • Louis O'Donoghue as Happy's dad
  • Lisanne Collett as Happy's mom
  • Ian Boothby as Guy on the Green
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