Happy Valley: The Hot Chick

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi chi’intrate. How did it come to this? At the height of his power in Hollywood in 1999, Adam Sandler founded his own production company — Happy Madison Productions — as a way to continue making the movies he enjoys. Over the years, Sandler has slowly morphed into a pariah on the landscape of his big-budget studio comedies, some of which seem to be thinly veiled excuses for lavish vacations. But do they truly represent the nadir in the career of one of comedy’s once-brightest stars? Are there any hidden or underrated gems? Is there such a thing as too few fart jokes? Will Ben Sears retain any sense of sanity by the end of this? Join him and find out, as we venture to the Happy Valley.


Folks, at this point I’m grading the Rob Schneider entries on a curve. I can’t accurately explain why I didn’t hate this movie outright as much as I should have. Maybe I’ve become numb to Schneider’s modus operandi. Maybe it’s because I watched this on payday. Maybe it’s because the soundtrack features a song by my favorite band, the White Stripes. Maybe it’s because his previous films have all been so dreadfully bad. *

You would think that the elevator pitch of “Rob Schneider swaps bodies with a teenage girl” would be enough to repel additional producers and audiences alike, but somehow the end result is less distasteful than it would seem. It certainly helps to add the gift of hindsight, to see that the supporting cast largely went on to bigger and better things. Anna Faris would soon go on to carve out her own niche in the comedy world, where she remains a solid presence to this day. Rachel McAdams was only two years away from exploding into pop culture as Regina George in Mean Girls and, shortly thereafter, The Notebook. And it never hurts to sprinkle in a little Melora Hardin (Jan from The Office).

The Hot Chick begins as an updated take on Big and the body-swap genre, then quickly morphs into a meditation on how disgusting it would be to live as Rob Schneider. I’m not saying the screenplay — written by Schneider and director Tom Brady (no, not that one) — is Oscar-worthy or even serviceable most of the time, but it’s the best that Schneider has produced thus far. For one, Schneider-as-Jessica seems to frequently forget his predicament whenever the plot requires it. This leads to entirely too many “men acting feminine” gags, and it’s the basis for a large amount of what the film believes are jokes. Schneider and Brady obviously didn’t know they had an ace up their sleeves with McAdams, who’s clearly dialed into the insanity that the movie requires. She has no illusions about the movie in which she has wound up, and she steals every scene she has — especially after she trades places with Schneider’s scumbag character. It’s a shame she’s not in the movie more. Faris’s April, meanwhile, may be the most well-rounded female character of all the films Schneider has written (Deuce Bigalow, The Animal and this). Faris may be relegated to sidekick duty, but she makes the most of her role. Maybe ignore the weird (read: gross) implication of April (a high schooler) falling in love with Schneider (a middle-aged man), though.

I cannot and will not attempt to give higher meaning to a film with so much literal toilet humor. I mean, Schneider-as-Jessica spends two-thirds of the film just trying to figure out how to use the bathroom as a man. But since I’m in a good mood, I think the film could generously be seen as an allegory for self-acceptance. Why else would there be the tertiary character of a young boy that enjoys trying on girls’ clothing and wearing makeup? Every other Happy Madison film thus far had me prepared to expect mockery as the sole purpose for this character’s existence but he thankfully ends up as an ally to Schneider when he/she is in need. 

Plus, the script actually provides a modicum of character development for Jessica. There’s undoubtedly another version of this film without the subplot of Jessica playing therapist to her parents, but I found myself unbothered by those scenes perhaps because I know they’re a rarity amongst the Happy Madison canon. It’s not that Jessica is a three-dimensional character before the swap, but she’s at least given a hair of shading by the end of the film. Thankfully, Jessica’s own moral improvement isn’t central to fixing her situation; it’s as simple (read: stupid) as finding a pair of earrings. Staring down the barrel of watching The Hot Chick, I groaned in torturous anticipation when I noticed the runtime. How in the world could a “Rob Schneider body swap” movie stretch itself out to 104 minutes, especially when Deuce Bigalow and The Animal were each less than 90 minutes? Is there enough sophomoric body and gender humor to cut out to get The Hot Chick around the same runtime as those? Absolutely, but I’m glad that those involved were (at least temporarily) smart enough to craft a character that resembles a genuine human being.

  • “I’m Getting Paid How Much?!” Inexplicable Cameo Award: Ashlee Simpson gets a drink spilled on her at the prom scene, and Michelle Branch (remember her?) also makes an appearance as the DJ at the dance club, but neither one of them says a single word.
  • Just Go With It: The Happy Madison Promise. The entire dance club scene is ridiculous and does not fit in with the rest of the film, even as a red herring moment. Maybe this is when hip-hop dancing started to get hot? A quick bit of research reveals this movie was released two years before the iconic You Got Served, so maybe Happy Madison was a trendsetter in that regard.
  • Fart Joke Counter: 4
  • The Walkout Test: I’m trying to imagine some bizarro-world scenario where the person in question would even be at a screening for this, but I’m gonna say it’s a Fail.
  • Who would’ve thought that such a dumb movie would have a renewed cultural semi-relevance? Schneider’s line of “It’s me, Jessica … I’m in here” has been making its rounds on Tik Tok, in case you were in doubt of my credentials as a hip, modern youth.
  • UP NEXT: Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson yell at each other a bunch in Anger Management.

* Please note there is a clear distinction between “not hating” and “enjoying”. This skews more towards the former.


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