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Sandler has big heart, fewer laughs in 'Daddy'

BIG DADDY -- 2 1/2 stars -- Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse, Leslie Mann, Jon Stewart, Kristy Swanson, Rob Schneider, Joe Bologna, Steve Buscemi; rated PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, slapstick violence); Carmike 12, Creekside Center and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16; Gateway 8 Cinemas; Loews Cineplex Broadway Centre, Holladay Center, Midvalley and South Towne Center Cinemas; Redwood Drive-in (with "Baby Geniuses"); Reel Theatres.

Meet the new Adam Sandler -- one who's not only more sensitive than before, but one who's also slightly less funny.If you probably couldn't guess by the ads, Sandler's newest, "Big Daddy," attempts to paint the often-crass comedian in a new light -- namely as a goofy cream puff. And though that strategy worked to a certain degree in "The Wedding Singer," it helped that the material seemed to suit him.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said about this sporadically funny, occasionally mushy and at-other-times raunchy comedy, which requires Sandler to act in places and to also take a back seat to a pair of cute youngsters (twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse, sharing one role) who perform the majority of the tasteless material this time around.

Still, the film is a cut above his previous one, "The Waterboy," if for no other reason than it's not quite as mean-spirited in its level of humor (though it still stoops to some lowest-common-denominator gags). And there is a certain charm to Sandler, at least when he's not adopting annoying fake accents.

He stars as Sonny Koufax, a law-school graduate who's made a career out of shirking responsibility. While his roommate, Kevin (Jon Stewart), prepares for the real world -- he's even proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Corinne (Leslie Mann) -- Sonny is content to work a part-time job and eat take-out food.

But Sonny gets a rude wake-up call when his ambitious girlfriend, Vanessa (Christy Swanson), abruptly dumps the unambitious slacker. He also gets an unexpected surprise in the form of Julian (played by the Sprouse twins), a 5-year-old who is apparently Kevin's biological son from a brief fling.

Desperate to convince Vanessa that he's ready for commitment, Sonny pretends to be Kevin (who's out of the country) and decides to take care of the boy. However, his unique style of "parenting" includes throwing newspapers over any sort of spill and teaching Julian a number of bad habits.

To his surprise, though, Sonny begins to care for the boy and for Corinne's less-abrasive sister, Layla (Joey Lauren Adams), who helps care for both of them.

It's pretty obvious where the story is going from there. And admittedly, you could nitpick about the numerous, obvious plot holes. But audiences don't go to a Sandler movie expecting realism or tricky plotting, they go for laughs, and there are at least a few.

Besides, he has surprising chemistry with his young co-stars, as well as Adams. And the supporting cast (especially Stewart and Steve Buscemi, in a small but scene-stealing cameo) is equally appealing.

"Big Daddy" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgar gags and jokes relating to bodily functions, as well as some crude sexual slang, as well as some slapstick-style violence.