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KIDS ON FILM

Billy the Adult Isn't as Dumb as Humor in 'Billy' the Movie

March 02, 1995|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section.

In "Billy Madison," a rich, lazy, beer-drinking 27-year-old tries to repeat grades one through 12, this time without his father bribing the teachers, in order to show his father that he, not conniving employee Eric Gordon, should inherit the family business. (Rated PG-13.)

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Most kids think crude jokes are funny. But from there, they split off into two camps: those who discriminate and those who will laugh at almost every forbidden word, violent pratfall or reference to bodily functions.

Two weeks after this movie led the box office, even the second group sat in silence throughout many of its unfunny jokes about peeing, doo-doo, boobs, buns, burping, talking with your mouth full and getting shot or knocked out.

Alex Gigliotti, 11, said it just wasn't worth the trek to the movie theater. "It was like one of those 99-cent rental movies," he said. He gave the movie a C-plus.

Alex said he was disappointed that the movie didn't deliver the laughs promised in the previews. He said comedian Adam Sandler (of "Saturday Night Live"), who plays would-be heir Billy Madison, "acted a little too stupid throughout the whole movie."

In short, he's no Jim Carrey--another TV comedian who specializes in playing dumb guys who outwit everyone. Alex said Carrey's movies, including "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective" and "The Mask," are "dumb but still funny."

Plus, he said, "Billy Madison" might have been better "if there were a story to it."

In the movie, Billy's attempts to get through school on his own are thwarted by the evil Eric, who blackmails the school principal into saying that Billy cheated. Billy is also distracted by his infatuation with his pretty elementary school teacher, Veronica.

But what the kids remembered most were isolated jokes.

Alan Belinky, 11, gave the movie an A-plus for scenes such as the one in which Billy shakes a chubby boy's face so hard it jiggles. He liked it so much, he came back a second time and brought his father, Mike.

"I liked it, not too much, but I liked it," Mike said diplomatically.

Alex's sister Briana, 10, said she laughed "when they burned up the dog poo and put it on the people's doorstep." She gave the movie a B.

"I liked it sort of," she said. "Some parts were just OK, and some parts were really funny."

Alex and Briana's parents thought the movie might have been educational, in the sense that it extolled the virtue of a self-motivated education. But they had second thoughts when their daughter asked them to explain the word "horny."

All things considered, said her father, Giovanni, he wished they'd gone to see "The Brady Bunch Movie."

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