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Entries in that's my boy (2)

Thursday
May222014

Blended

It’s easy to understand if some cinemagoers have given up on Adam Sandler. Despite some solid performances in movies like “Reign Over Me” and “Punch-Drunk Love” and a few (arguably) funny early films, he has, at this point, fallen off the wagon. With a five film run (excluding animated voice work) of “Grown Ups,” “Just Go With It,” “Jack and Jill,” “That’s My Boy” and “Grown Ups 2,” only “Just Go With It” managed to be even remotely watchable, while “Grown Ups 2” can easily be labeled with no hyperbole as one of the absolute worst comedies ever made. However, it doesn’t appear he’s totally lost, as evidenced by his latest, “Blended.” While a positive reception to it could very well be due to the disastrously low expectations Sandler has set for his movies over the last few years, there’s a certain warmth to it that makes it more than the sum of its parts.

In his third outing with Drew Barrymore, Sandler plays Jim, a manager at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods store who has a terrible first date with Lauren, played by Barrymore. Neither are interested in the other, so they part ways expecting to never see each other again. However, a chance circumstance lands them both at an African resort where they are booked to participate in a number of couples events. Along with them are Lauren’s two boys, one a reckless danger to himself and the other just discovering his sexuality, and Jim’s three girls, the oldest of which is developing a crush for the first time, terrifying Jim. However, their attraction grows while on the vacation and they each develop bonds with the other’s kids, which leads them somewhere unexpected.

“Blended” has a leg up when compared to Sandler’s recent filmography. Whereas films like “Grown Ups” and its sequel didn’t even bother with a story, this film’s ideas and themes center around its story. Sure, it’s predictable, but there’s heart to it and its family value themes come naturally rather than forced like in “Jack and Jill.” Similarly, the kids aren’t just throwaway figures like they have been in previous movies. They’re integral to the film’s meaning. Each of Jim’s children misses their mother, who died of cancer, and they each have their own ways of coping. The middle child, for instance, likes to pretend that her mom is still there, an invisible force that she speaks to and saves a spot at the dinner table for. Jim, who also misses their mother more than anything in the world, goes along with it, understanding the pain his daughter feels.

Both Jim and Lauren, the latter of whom is dealing with the resentment from her children for leaving their deadbeat father, have the best intentions and are trying to make the most out of a life that hasn’t quite gone as they planned. They’re both flawed, particularly Jim, who dresses his girls up in boyish clothes and styles their hair in the female equivalent of a bowl cut, but they’re doing their best, both clearly out of their comfort zones when they have to deal with issues that their spouses would have traditionally handled, like when Lauren finds a hidden centerfold under her son’s bed or when Jim’s oldest daughter hits that time of the month.

They say the quickest way to someone’s heart is through their kids, so it comes as no surprise that it’s they who end up sparking the attraction between Jim and Lauren while in Africa. Each help the other in various ways and as more layers of Jim and Lauren are revealed, their desire to spend more time with each other grows. These moments are genuine too. At first, some of the jabs they take at each other are a little mean spirited, but more often than not, they’re nothing more than playful pokes, the type of innocent jokes any loving couple shares with each other.

On top of all that, “Blended” is actually pretty funny, surprisingly so after Sandler’s last few abominations. Granted, likable characters make for a more pleasant and humorous experience, but some of the jokes are genuinely clever, like when it upends the post-makeover slow-mo entrance scene made popular by romantic comedies in the 80s and 90s with transitioning music based on the reactions of those looking on, including Jim’s horrified expression as he realizes his little girl will now be an object of desire for the boys around her. It even nails the awkwardness of first dates; those who have ever been on a bad one will get to see the old “planned emergency phone call” escape we’ve all wanted to try, but never had the guts to.

With all that said, “Blended” is still not a great movie. It has just as many jokes that land with a thud as it does that actually work and some late movie dramatics pile on the cheese, despite previous false set-ups that could have circumvented it. “Blended” stumbles a ton, that’s for sure, but when it’s at its best, it finds real meaning. It’s touching and doesn’t feel exhausting despite its nearly two hour runtime, which includes a recurring bit from Terry Crews where he shows up in the most random places to sing, a bit that should get old, but, oddly, never does. This is a major step up for Sandler after his previous debacles. Let’s hope he continues this upward swing and realizes his potential because I’m not sure I could suffer through a “Grown Ups 3.”

Blended receives 3.5/5

Friday
Jun152012

That's My Boy

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