That's My Boy
What makes an Adam Sandler film? Is it that Sandler trademark—a squeaky, irritating, verging-on-dirty-old-man voice? An absurd, debauched series of jokes laid out with little regard to intellect? Or maybe it’s a plot dangling between bad and horrible. If so, That’s My Boy is a glowing example of an Adam Sandler film at its finest.
Sandler plays Donny, the estranged father of a son who was conceived following a lust filled after-school detention when Donny was 13-years-old. The premise is this: A nearly pre-pubescent punk in the 1980’s scores big with his math teacher, who gets pregnant and is ultimately sentenced to 30 years in jail. The care of their child is left in the hands of Donny — who fittingly names the child Hans Solo (what else would a child of the 80’s do?). But when he turns 18, Hans Solo (Andy Samberg) leaves, re-naming himself Todd in the hope to lead a normal life.
Unfortunately for Donny, celebrity at 13 didn’t pan out so well. Twenty-Seven years later, after becoming a B-list celebrity, he finds himself dead broke and a relic — the 80’s incarnate. He drives around a beat up car with “Rush” boldly painted on the hood and a brimming rack of cassettes in all their mix-tape glory nestling in the passenger seat. Not realizing he had to pay taxes, he now owes the IRS $43,000 that he must come up with by the end of the week. Jail beckons. That is, unless he can scrounge the money together by coercing his son (who he hasn’t seen for nearly a decade) to appear on a daytime TV show for a family reunion with his jailbird mother. Of course, the timing hits the same weekend as Todd’s wedding.
Serving as the counterpart to Donny, Samberg plays a straight-laced, aspiring business partner wanting only for his life to revolve around golf courses and champagne. Engaged to the wrong girl (Jamie, played by Leighton Meester), and so scarred by childhood he is unable to go anywhere without a spare pair of underwear stuffed in his pocket, Todd is the dupe for all of Donny’s inappropriate antics. Todd delivers some of the better lines, as he recounts the hilariously inappropriate memories from his childhood, though overall he is underutilized. This seems to be the missed mark in the film, with a belief that audiences are more enthralled by toilet humor than wryly-crafted chemistry.
Admittedly, debased comedy is fairly typical for Sandler, dirty jokes are often the things that elevate his audience appeal, but it is still a disappointment to see such debilitated growth in a comedian. Perhaps it’s even more disappointing to think we debase comedy as a whole for lumping this film amongst others in the genre. What happened to words and wit? Instead, audiences are subjected to hours of sloppily placed four-letter words, geriatric sex, fat strippers, skinny strippers, injured strippers (there are a lot of strippers), incest, all sorts of bodily fluid, and worst of all that voice—which seems higher pitched and more excruciating with each and every film Sandler makes. It comes across like a boggled attempt to cram-pack every comedic cliché into a single film, and, sadly for anyone who watches, this apparently takes nearly two hours to accomplish. Which is unfortunate, considering writer David Caspe (Happy Endings) has proven he can write better material than this. Even Samberg seems to have lowered the bar for himself—and to think he left SNL with the hope that this would buoy his fame. “D*** in a Box” is sounding ultra-sophisticated in this light, something even grandma could enjoy.
The silver lining (there’s always a silver lining, is there not?) is that if you enjoy Sandler chances are you will enjoy That’s My Boy as well. Perhaps not for the spectacular plot points, cunning dialogue, and spanning character arcs, but because even a corpse can laugh at some of the crude lines and 80’s references. Donny is that Sandler classic: a brute that evokes child-like pity with his failed attempts at kindness. The contrast of the two worlds, the Boston-accented, beer-drinking Donny versus the upper class etiquette of Todd’s pinky up lifestyle, allows the obvious chuckles. Vanilla Ice (we can’t believe we’re saying this) really added a nice element to the humor even while still managing to poke fun at himself the majority of the time. And the quick cameos from NY Jets coach Rex Ryan (who wittily loves the New England Patriots in the film), Todd Bridges, Susan Sarandon, Tony Orlando and James Caan as the short-tempered Irish priest, allow something of a reprieve.
Ultimately, the film is about acceptance, despite one another’s downfalls and mistakes. Blood is thicker than water—you know. Alright, so Adam Sandler may not be the guy we remember from The Wedding Singer, Billy Madison, or Happy Gilmore, but for what That’s My Boy is, a low brow comedy, it serves the purpose. So, if you’re in the market for a raunchy comedy, where Asian servants seem structured around Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, fat strippers eat food mid-routine, old ladies constantly spit out dirty lines (seemingly Betty White turned down the role), and bodily fluids always land somewhere they’re not supposed to — then That’s My Boy is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.
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