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The Billy Madison Musical Moment Remains a True Fantasy Highlight - Stream It on Peacock
Seriously now, does anyone present have additional gum?
The plot of Billy Madison is ludicrous, and that’s part of the fun. The Adam Sandler vehicle from 1995 (directed by Tamra Davis) features a manchild font of gibberish having to repeat grades 1-12 in order to inherit his father’s empire of hotels. A malevolent and brilliant Bradley Whitford stands in his way. Billy flunked kindergarten too, so that's where he starts.
For reasons that defy normal comprehension, this potentially dangerous man is allowed to return to school alongside real children. If you’ve never seen the movie, or if you've seen it a million times and want to revisit the fun, it is currently streaming on Peacock.
There are so many logistical questions inherent in the basic story, but logic doesn’t exist here. It’s meant to be lunacy, because it’s a bloody comedy after all. The sight of a grown Sandler sitting in a kindergarten class is supposed to be ridiculous. Part of the fun is watching how far the movie will extend this ridiculousness, and while it never really stops until the movie is over, there is one giant peak that always stands out.
After Billy intentionally pees his pants to help a kid, after Chris Farley appears as an unhinged bus driver, after a million twittering sounds from Sandler, and after Whitford has already chewed every piece of scenery in sight (as only he can do), the movie gets about as serious as it’s going to get. Billy rejects his hero’s journey and the “growth” that he’s attained thus far. He goes back to drinking by the pool 24/7 and being an a**hole.
He gets tough love from love interest Veronica Vaughan (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras), and decides to reverse course and complete his “education.” The entire movie is a berserker fantasy, and now it’s time for all of it to boil over. The movie needs a release. Sandler starts singing, and a triumphant musical number happens.
It’s not a rock song or a montage moment, it’s a powerful anthem that aims to be something akin to “One Day More” from Les Miserables. Once it starts, part of us feels like the entire movie has been a musical. It’s a simple song, but wow is it catchy. If you remember nothing else from this movie, you probably remember the song. It's only a matter of time before Broadway suits see money here and try to adapt all of it for the stage.
Why put this musical theater moment in the middle of your movie? For one thing, why not? For another, we are dealing with fantasy. If you told us that the beats for this movie were originally written on a bedsheet by the Marquis De Sade, we’d buy it. In a comedic fantasy romp such as this, a musical theater number makes psychotic sense.
It makes inevitable sense, we should say. We think, “What is this now?” That is quickly followed by, “Oh wow, this is happening,” and that culminates in, “Of course it is happening, please let this never end.” There’s the cliché riff on how many musical theater songs begin. There’s the return of the heroine (dressed in a ridiculous fantasy outfit), who pops out of nowhere. She ends her sung stanza with the lyric, “Don’t I have a nice rack?” Stephen Sondheim’s legacy is secure.
The musical assembly continues as all of the children that Billy has made friends with thus far (there’s a troublesome line) appear on the roof of his house and sing about how they are going to help him. How did they get on the roof? Who cares!
They aren’t the only characters to return, because the song famously resurrects a clown who was killed earlier in the movie. Yes, a clown dies in a throwaway gag, and that’s all there was to it. Isn’t it a hoot to see a clown go down? The song features the clown getting up and singing directly to the audience, proudly announcing that he’s not dead. He simply has a hemorrhage in his head. With no real way to lyrically or musically end this, the song stops with Billy and everyone else repeatedly asking each other the question, “Do you have any more gum?” Back to school for Billy, and onto the finale for us.
As far as we’re concerned, the sequence is the crown jewel of this hour-and-29-minute affair. It tops the famous (and meme champ) speech of the judge during Billy’s final test— “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard…” It even tops Whitford’s continued descent into madcap villainy, which is no easy thing to do.
It bears repeating that nothing in this movie makes sense. That includes Billy’s final round of tests. One of those tests is a recitation of Hamlet, because that’s a famous school-ending tradition right up there with the SATs. Billy flagrantly uses a shoe to cheat during these trials, it should be noted. The real bugger of them all comes when Billy has accomplished his mission and wins the day: he decides not to inherit his father’s business (there were no classes in hotel management in his schooling, by the way), and… he says he’s going to be a teacher. The only consequence to the events of this movie are that Whitford doesn’t get the business, and millions of children will have their youths wasted by Teacher Billy.
A gibberish musical number feels right in a place like this. It’s the king of this motion picture idiocy, and it locks in exactly what this movie is before the endgame deploys. If you’re not on the movie’s wavelength after the singing, then you’re probably never going to be.
We enjoy that wavelength, and we always enjoy revisiting it. Stream it on Peacock right now, and join us in asking the question: “Do you have any more gum?”