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Punch-Drunk Love

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Punch-Drunk Love

Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rated: R
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is another overrated film by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (MAGNOLIA and BOOGIE NIGHTS). Most people, however, will remember the picture not for the writer/director but for its star, Adam Sandler, who delivers his first serious performance. (Emily Watson, in an underwritten part, plays Barry's girlfriend.) Although the movie is a romantic comedy -- with whimsy and random violence thrown into the mix -- Sandler plays his character completely straight. If he sometimes gets laughs, it is because of the material and not his comedic antics. Speaking of the material, it is rather strange, being a romantic comedy without any real romance and with only a few laughs. Only as a character study of a weird loner does the movie have appeal.

Barry Egan (Sandler) is cursed with seven sisters, each of which henpeck him to death. Since he hasn't had a date in eons -- when young, his sisters taunted him by calling him "gay boy" -- he turns to a sex phone line for companionship. After divulging every important number in his life, he is finally able to speak with a woman who is only interested in phone sex and money. After just talking with her, he becomes the subsequent target of her harassment. Not only does she call him day and night, she also sends over some of her unsavory relatives to do him harm.

Meanwhile back at work, Barry is busying accumulating pudding cups to win airline mileage, which he plans on converting into cash and/or tickets. This part of the story, which is inspired by a real-life incident, is the most interesting part. It is while collecting pudding in a supermarket that Barry does his brief shuffle in the aisles that many reviewers are calling his dance number, which is a stretch. If Sandler is a song-and-dance man at heart, we can't tell it by this few second jig, sans music or singing.

I enjoyed watching Sandler prove that he can play someone besides himself. But let's not blow this out of proportion as some have, suggesting that his work in the film is worthy of Oscar consideration. The film and Sandler's performance are sometimes entertaining but instantly forgettable.

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE runs 1:29. It is rated R for "strong language including a scene of sexual dialogue" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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