Someone needs to put on an intervention for Adam Sandler. The man is so talented and has proven that talent through some amazing performances in dramas like Reign Over Me, Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People, yet he constantly relegates himself to insipid tripe like this week’s That’s My Boy. I suppose one could make the argument that it’s better than his last few movies, but he set the bar so low after Grown Ups and Jack and Jill that he had nowhere to go but up, so that’s hardly saying anything.
Back in the mid-80’s, Donny (played at this time by Justin Weaver) got involved with one of his teachers, the sexy Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). Eventually, they were caught and Ms. McGarricle was thrown in jail while Donny became famous. Before their relationship ended, however, Donny got Ms. McGarricle pregnant and because she was about to serve 30 years in prison, Donny was tasked with bringing up the kid, whom he named Han Solo (Andy Samberg). When Han Solo was 18, however, he left and never looked back. Now years later and with the new name of Todd, he is about to be married to the beautiful Jamie (Leighton Meester). He has become hugely successful while Donny (now played by Adam Sandler) has squandered his fortune and is in danger of heading to jail if he can’t pay $43,000 in back taxes. In an effort to get that money, Donny shows up mere days before his kid’s wedding, which is certain to make an otherwise exciting time an anxiety filled nightmare.
As dreadful as That’s My Boy is, its opening isn’t bad. It’s silly, sexy and has one hilarious joke mocking the idea that a young boy who has sex with his insanely attractive teacher is somehow a “victim.” Turn the sexes around and that may be the case, but any male who has gotten through school will tell you of that one teacher they had the hots for, the one they fantasized about during class and would have done anything to mess around with. Parodying the scornful attitude such an event elicits in our society, the film treats Donny like a king, the one who lived out every boy’s dream. While the women condemn the action, the men high five each other over how great they perceive it to be. As a man who had a few attractive teachers in his day, I feel I have the authority to comment on these kids who are lucky enough to bed them. They’re not victims. They’re awesome.
Unfortunately, that bit is the only one that works in That’s My Boy. Other laughs are few and far between, maybe one for every half hour, so at an entirely too long running time of two hours, that’s about four laughs total. The film is full of scatological, masturbatory humor (including an embarrassing scene where Sandler uses Jamie’s grandmother’s picture as inspiration) and we once again have to listen to Sandler speak in a goofy, grating voice. When will he realize it’s not how you speak, but how you deliver the lines that makes what you’re doing funny? Ever since 1998’s The Waterboy (an undeserving hit if there ever was one), Sandler has insisted on crafting a silly voice for many of his roles. Rarely (if ever) has it been funny; this movie doesn’t change that.
Perhaps Sandler and the filmmakers simply forgot what year it was. Sandler tries to hearken back to his “silly voice” days (even predating The Waterboy with his work on Saturday Night Live), while writer David Caspe references pop culture phenomenon that died out over a decade ago, including the “Whassup?” Budweiser beer commercials and the Ricky Martin singles, “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “She Bangs.” This movie is so outdated that its younger target audience probably won’t even get many of its references, like the one to the late 70’s/early 80’s sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes (yes, it has that line).
But as I’ve said before, even the least funny comedies can be good if they offer up a decent story with likable characters, but That’s My Boy doesn’t muster up much of anything, at least nothing that can be considered good. The characters are either despicable or annoying (usually both) and they give us no reason to care. Donny, for example, was such a terrible father that he forced Todd at a very young age to get a tattoo that encompassed his whole back (and is now distorted thanks to his growth) and he turned him into a diabetic by allowing him to eat candy and cake for breakfast every day. Todd should have been taken away by Child Protective Services at a very young age. Now that he’s older and can look back, Todd hates his father and we understand because we hate him too. Why would we want them to reconcile?
That’s My Boy fails on nearly every level, only conjuring up a few laughs here and there while Sandler pockets another huge paycheck for intellectually crippling our society. I’m sure he’s a great guy and I know he has talent, but the characters he chooses to play are terrible and don’t allow him to showcase it. Despite my frustration, his last few movies sadden me more than they anger. Sandler is capable of so much more and he either doesn’t know it or doesn’t care. Regardless, That’s My Boy is neither funny nor heartfelt and it’s absolutely not worth seeing.
That’s My Boy receives 1/5