Film: Big Daddy

"Big Daddy" is a film about a seriously disturbed slacker who adopts a 5-year-old and tutors him in cynicism, cruel practical jokes and antisocial behavior."

This 1999 box-office smash starred Adam Sandler, Jon Stewart, and twin child actors Cole and Dylan Sprouse. It tells the story of thirtysomething Manhattan resident Sonny Koufax (Sandler), a Syracuse law graduate who has no plan whatsoever of taking his bar exam. Instead, he lives off a fat settlement from getting his foot run over years ago and works as a toll-booth collector one day per week, spending the rest of his days sleeping and watching cartoons at the apartment he rents with fellow Syracuse alum Kevin Gerrity (Stewart).

His life changes forever one day when a young orphan named Julian (Cole and Dylan Sprouse) is literally left at his door. Sonny at first wants nothing to do with the kid, but then realizes that he just might be able to use him to impress his cantankerous father, Lenny - not to mention win back the affection of his disillusioned girlfriend, Vanessa.

As time goes on, Sonny and Julian strike up a friendship that eventually becomes so strong that Sonny decides to adopt the boy permanently. Problem is, social services representative Arthur Brooks suspects that Sonny may have resorted to chicanery in order to gain custody of Julian, and decides to investigate....

This movie also features Joey Lauren Adams as Layla, a lawyer who helps Sonny; Leslie Mann as Corinne, Layla's sardonic sister; and Rob Schneider as Nazo, a delivery boy who often brings Sonny food. Steve Buscemi turns up in a cameo as a homeless person.

Not to be confused with that character in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Or the comedy band who does contemporary songs in the style of the '50s. Or with rapper Big Daddy Kane. Or with World Wrestling Entertainment's Big Daddy V - or, for that matter, with their "Big Daddy Cool." Or with those tough drill-arm enemies from BioShock. Or with that huge, 1,000-calorie burger offered by Southern California restaurant chain Cronies. Or the Chick Tract on evolution.


Tropes Include:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Koufaxes' ethnicity is never revealed, but in one scene Sonny puts on a subtle Yiddish accent while impersonating his grandmother. (Sandy Koufax is the greatest Jewish baseball player ever which places him high in the running for greatest Jewish athlete, period.)
  • Author Appeal: Sandler, who co-wrote and co-produced this film in addition to starring in it, includes references to some of his favorite things (such as Professional Wrestling, fast food, and the rock band Styx).
  • Babies Ever After: Sonny and Layla have an infant child of their own by the end of the movie.
  • Back for the Finale: The Hooters sequence at the end, which reunites the majority of the cast.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sonny pretends to be Julian's father to fix his relationship with Vanessa but by the end of the movie he feels like he's Julian's father.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Downplayed. Sonny knew that Vanessa was beside him, but we didn't.
  • Big Eater: An enormously fat (and suspiciously Mob-looking) man is a regular patron of Sonny's favorite Italian restaurant, and he is always seen with a different girlfriend. (Sonny's theory is that he keeps eating his love interests.)
  • Big "NO!": Julian when the judge officially awards his custody to his biological father, Kevin.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Sonny's dad says this to Tommy when he objects to his statement that Sonny is an unfit father.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Upon investigating Vanessa's sudden rejection of him, Sonny discovers that she has dumped him in favor of a senior citizen (and grandfather) whom she defends as obviously preferable as a love interest because "he has a five-year plan." About a year and a half later, it is revealed that Vanessa is now working at Hooters with the older man, whose "five-year plan" included being the restaurant chef.
    • Also:
    "Is that the guy with the old balls?"
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Sonny still thinks that hawking loogies and throwing sticks in front of skaters so they'll trip are funny things to do, but he still boasts an impressive knowledge of Congressional legislation from his days at law school.
  • Burger Fool: Vanessa and Sid work at Hooters.
  • Butt Monkey: Nazo exists for comedy at his own expense.
  • Canada, Eh?: Kevin sings the praises of Canadian beer at the trial.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Corinne working at Hooters is repeated often and becomes relevant. She met Kevin at a Toronto Hooters.
  • Children Raise You: Sonny at the start is a lazy jerkass. Sonny at the end is a mature (if still goofy) lawyer.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The crazed homeless man shows flashes of this behavior: within seconds, he goes from taunting Nazo to giggling stupidly to screaming "STOP YELLING AT ME!" and bursting into tears.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Among other escapades, Sonny takes Julian to the park and teaches him to throw sticks in front of in-line skaters to make them trip - all for his own sick amusement.
  • The Comically Serious: Kevin, Vanessa, the kindergarten teacher, and Sonny's dad (to an extent), are all funny because they are serious in the face of silliness.
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot: Had Julian said he was from "Toronto" (where he was born) and not "Buffalo" (where he lived), he would've saved everyone a lot of trouble. Kevin doesn't remember Buffalo (he's never been there) but when Julian mentions Toronto in court, he suddenly remembers the Hooters waitress he slept with in Toronto after the 1993 World Series.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    Sonny: I can't believe this! I adopted him so we can become a family, I thought that's what you wanted!
    Vanessa: Sonny, you surprised me with a kid while I was away, isn't exactly what I had in mind!
    Sonny: But I did this for you! You wanted me to be more responsible! I can't raise this kid alone!
    Sid: You know, you remind me of my grandson, he didn't think things through.
    Sonny: Hey old guy, zip it or I'll break your hip!
  • Dissimile:
    Tommy: In your experience, was Sonny a good father to Julian?
    Nazo: Oh, yes. They make terrific pair. They went together like lamb and tuna fish.
    Tommy: "Lamb and tuna fish?"
    Nazo: Maybe you like spaghetti and meatball? You more comfortable with that analogy?
  • Doorstop Baby: Julian was left there by some guy who was told to take him to Sonny's place He isn't literally a baby anymore by that point but it's the same plot of 'how do I raise a kid'?.
  • Fanservice: Vanessa is shown in her bra (over which she puts a gray suit jacket and nothing else). Then we see her in the standard-issue "Hooters" tank top and orange shorts. Since it's Kristy Swanson we're not complaining.
  • Foil:
    • Kevin Gerrity to Sonny Koufax. The two men look remarkably alike (except for Kevin having a more professional-looking haircut), but Kevin is there mainly to show the kind of man that Sonny could become (financially successful and happily married) if he just acted a little more responsibly. This doppelganger theme is even played up by the movie's main plot, which sees Sonny pretending to be Kevin (though, ironically, in doing this he is being irresponsible and not at all Kevin-like).
    • Kevin's fiancee (and later wife) Corinne also has a foil - Vanessa, Sonny's would-be wife. Corinne eventually quits her job as a Hooter's waitress and becomes a doctor, while Vanessa goes in reverse. Corinne also has a loving personality beneath her mean exterior, while Vanessa tries to hide her icy heart beneath a (somewhat) pleasant exterior.
  • Food End: Buffalo wings! Yum!
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In something of an Actor Allusion to his role in Happy Gilmore (also directed by Dennis Dugan), Sonny plays golf on the putting green on the roof of Kevin's apartment and tries to conjure up good luck for himself by telling Kevin that if he sinks his shot, he and Vanessa will get back together. He does make the shot - but a huge rat immediately crawls out of the hole, and Kevin remarks, "That can't be good." Turns out, Sonny's belief did turn out to be true From a Certain Point of View: he and Vanessa did get back together (as in, met each other briefly in Vanessa's new place)...but then a loathsome creature - Sid - came between them.
    • When Sonny shows up at the party for Kevin near the beginning of the film, all the other guests mistake him for Kevin and shout "Surprise!" at him (and are therefore much less enthused when the real Kevin arrives a minute later, causing Corinne to complain: "We wasted the good surprise on you! and run into the bathroom to cry). After watching the film a few times, you start to realize that Sonny and Kevin do look a great deal alike except for their hairstyles and Sonny's slightly darker complexion, and this becomes Fridge Brilliance when you connect it to Sonny's scheme later in the film to impersonate Kevin in order to gain custody of Julian (and, indeed, the physical similarity just might have been the reason why Sonny thought the ruse would work in the first place). There's definitely a Doppelgänger theme there.
    • After Julian revealed that he was born in Toronto, you can see Kevin in deep thought.
    • In Julian's mom's letter to Kevin, "I hope you understand why I never told you before until now" and "I can't be his mother anymore".
  • From the Mouths of Babes: According to Julian (okay, Sonny), music critics are "cynical a**holes." (Also see the Brick Joke and Cloudcuckoolander entries on this page for more of Julian's, uh, "witticisms.")
  • Fruit of The Loon: The homeless guy somehow sneaks a cantaloupe into the courtroom during the trial.
  • General Ripper: The homeless guy's dad.
    "I'd rather live in the streets than under his freaky-ass rules!"
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's so blatant in this "family" picture that it's more like the jokes pointed and shouted "Hey, look over there!" and then ran by while the radar's head was turned.
  • Gilligan Fade: Sonny's father makes him promise not to spend the money from his court settlement on "worthless crap." Sonny agrees - and then, the camera briefly fades out and then fades back in to show Sonny buying a surfboard.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Plenty.
    • When the homeless guy (who, being played by Steve Buscemi, is presumably Italian-American) thinks that the national dish of Nazo's homeland is not truly American - but that spaghetti and meatballs are perfectly American!
    • This exchange:
      Ted Castellucci (the prosecuting attorney): Objection, Your Honor! The court is interested in the truth, not the opinion of the defendant's father.
      Lenny Koufax: You want my opinion? My son is a moron.
      Ted Castellucci: I withdraw my objection. Please proceed!
  • I Will Show You X: Sonny calls his dad for help since he's stuck with Julian, who's mother passed away and doesn't want him to be put in a "group home". His dad tells him to just give him back to child service before he "ruins both [they're] lives". Sonny is angry with his dad's usual lack of support, so he decides to prove to him that he can be a good father to Julian (better than Sonny's dad was to him).
    Lenny: That's impossible because all you care about is yourself!
    Sonny: Yeah? Well I care about you saving money on this phone call! (slams the receiver on the booth)
  • Irishman And A Jew: Kevin Gerrity and Sonny Koufax. The stereotypes are inverted in that Kevin is the serious one and Sonny is the more outgoing and rambunctious. (Ironically, the actor who plays Kevin is himself Jewish.)
  • Ironic Echo: "Did you waste the good surprise on me again?"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: So many...
    • Sonny makes Hooters jokes to offend Corinne, trips skaters for fun, and yet he is a good friend.
    • Mr. Herlihy, the drunken old man down at the sports bar who tries to pick fights with Sonny but shows up at his trail and calls him a 'good egg'. (Although there's more "jerk" than "gold" with him)
    • Corinne is only nasty to Sonny and only because of the non-stop Hooters jokes.
  • Malaproper: Nazo believes that George Washington's teeth were made of "wool."
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: Deliberately invoked in the movie. Once one sees past the emotional aspect of the movie, it's easy to understand what the movie is really trying to portray Sonny Koufax as and that some changes in his life were necessary; as when he gained Julian he started being responsible with him (teaching him to bathe, and helping with schoolwork). Then, when he lost him, he started to re-read law books and reacted like any father would after losing his child.
  • May-December Romance: Vanessa, who's in her late 20s or early 30s, leaves Sonny for a guy that's old enough to be her father.
  • Moment Killer: Kevin was giving a speech, and tried to tell his girlfriend Corrine something...
    Sonny: You're not proposing, are you?
    Kevin: Yeah Sonny, I am.
    Sonny: Well, think about it.
    Corrine: God Sonny, shut up!
  • Never Live It Down: No one let Corinne forget that she was a Hooters waitress. Sonny gleefully brings up that Corinne used to work at Hooters whenever he's around her, much to her chagrin. One of their friends makes her admit in court, during testimony, that she used to work there while she was attending medical school.
    Corrine: [under her breath] Asshole...
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for Big Daddy prominently features The New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" as one of the movie's big pop songs. In fact, "You Get What You Give" isn't in the movie at all!
  • Non-Specifically Foreign: Just where is Nazo from, anyway? Look for the country that eats lamp with tuna fish.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Kevin's time in Toronto. He got wasted and slept with a girl named Jane who gave birth to Julian. He's forgotten all about it, but Jane didn't.
    • "Is there really a kid there, or is this like the time you told me my parents were dead?"
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Even though Julian was born in Toronto and is genetically half-Canadian, the Sprouse twins don't attempt a Canadian accent while portraying him.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Vanessa wants a more responsible person to marry, which Sonny isn't. When he mocked her ("You need a father figure? Stop pulling your sister's hair!"), she decided to give him some time to think, when in truth she decided right then and there it's over between them.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore:
    • Sonny missed the old days when he and his friends had lots of fun, but they're too busy with their own lives and careers for that anymore. Sonny's life has changed as well since meeting Julian.
    Sonny: A kid walked into my life. You think I had that planned? But I fell in love with that kid. So my plans have changed.
    • Also summed up humorously by Kevin:
    Kevin: ...when we were at Syracuse, and Vanessa worshipped you...Nobody was hassling you to get a job, Tommy and Phil were showering separately...
  • Oh, Crap:
    • Sonny, after realizing that Arthur Brooks has just called him by his real name instead of the false name he had been using.
    • Kevin, after he realizes that he's just confessed in front of the entire courtroom (including Corinne) that he is Julian's biological father (and Corinne is not the mother). Corinne forgives Kevin, because he confessed to save Sonny from jail.
    • Vanessa does it twice in a row at the beginning of the movie (when she realizes she's late for an appointment, no thanks to Sonny):
      Vanessa: [waking up] Shit! [looking at the clock] Shit!
  • Periphery Hatedom: In-story example: Sonny absolutely loathes a giant singing kangaroo on a children's video watched by Julian ("I can't take this shit."). The kangaroo is obviously supposed to be a Captain Ersatz for Barney the Dinosaur, but oddly enough Barney, too, exists in the movie's universe.
  • Personal Arcade: Sonny has a Space Station pinball machine in his apartment.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Okay, so he's not exactly a villain but the homeless guy mentions O. J. Simpson "getting away with murder" when he's called to the witness stand at Sonny's trial - and then looks over at a black juror with a condescending, You Know What They Say About X attitude.
  • Product Placement: Just one example is the prominent scene at McDonald's that talks about sausage McMuffins, and later on Sonny discreetly bribing someone in a court room with a bag of the stuff.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Arthur Brooks is one in the context of Sonny's life. He's trying to separate Sonny from Julian but only because it's his job and Sonny technically kidnapped the kid. He gets some Pet the Dog moments along the way (such as saying that there is "no greater high" for him then when the original parent accepts custody of the child), as well as in the climactic courtroom scene.
  • Reality Ensues: Zigzagged. Sonny calls himself to the witness stand at the trial and has his father cross-examine him in the hope that he can win the court over with an emotional appeal. Miraculously, he persuades Lenny that he has learned his lesson and is now prepared to be a responsible adult. Lenny vouches for his son and everyone in the courtroom applauds - but the judge will not let herself forget that Sonny broke the law and, no matter how contrite he may be now, still deserves to go to jail. Then Kevin Gerrity, as Julian's biological father, refuses to press charges against his roommate, so Sonny walks out of court a free man. However, since he has proven himself to be erratic and untrustworthy, Sonny is refused custody of Julian, who is instead reunited with Kevin. In the end Sonny does get a consolation prize in form of being appointed a mentor and uncle to Julian, and he and Layla have had a baby of their own by the time the epilogue rolls around.
  • Running Gag
    • Julian's inability to control his bodily functions. ("The kid won't stop peeing and throwing up. He's like a cocker spaniel.")
    • The nonstop boob jokes. ("Hooters! Hooters! HOOTERS!")
    • Nazo's difficulty with the English language.
    • "Help me! I'm lost! I don't know where I am!"
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Julian gets to win every card game he plays because he's a kid and he's cute. His favorite "game," in fact, is called "I Win".
    Nazo: [mad over "losing"] This is bullshit!
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: When Sonny's lie is exposed by Arthur Brooks, the usually comical Nazo becomes a lot more serious, taking Sonny aside and telling them that he'd like to help, but "my status in this country is not exactly legal."
  • Sink or Swim Fatherhood: Sonny has a time and a half trying to figure fatherhood after Julian shows up. Although he has a bit more help than most thanks to Nazo (who, admittedly, is an even worse father figure), Phil and Tommy, and eventually Kevin when he returns from China.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Jon Stewart. Even though he's the one who indirectly sets the main part of the plot in motion, as well as the one who resolves it in the end.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Two of 'em!
    • Kristy Swanson. She is on screen for only about 10 minutes, but hers is one of the very first characters we see, as well as being the person responsible for Sonny adopting Julian in the first place. She's in the final scene, too!
    • Jon Stewart. Kevin Gerrity is conspicuously missing for most of the film (being on a business trip in China). Unlike Swanson, Stewart didn't even make it into the trailer, as described above. Yet the whole plot hinges on Sonny impersonating Kevin, and he's the one who saves Sonny from jail time at the climax.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Charlie Chaplin's 1921 silent classic The Kid, which is also about a derelict adopting a boy after his mother abandons him and then battling social services when they try to take the child from him.
  • Stern Teacher: Julian's teacher, who confronts Sonny about his antisocial habits, is no-nonsense in her tone and language.
  • Stop Copying Me: Instead of turning the tables, Sonny flings the woodchuck Tongue Twister.
  • Technically a Smile: The closest Vanessa comes to smiling in any of her three scenes in the movie is a tight, clenched-toothed, nervous grin when Sonny and Julian visit her apartment (little suspecting that Vanessa's new boyfriend, Sid, is in the bathroom at that very moment).
  • Totally Radical: The judge (a visibly middle-aged woman) says "Awesome!" at the trial. Justified as she was being sarcastic.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: It's more like a Yum Shot....
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Just after Sonny wins his father over to his side in the courtroom, the judge bangs her gavel and it becomes clear that Sonny will go to jail. Then it's time for Kevin to set the stage for the movie's true climax by confessing that he is Julian's biological father.