I used to like Adam Sandler. There are times when I’ll still stick on Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore (still his finest comedy hour), The Waterboy or The Wedding Singer. There are even times when I’ll stick on Little Nicky. What I won’t reach for is Jack And Jill or Grown Ups or Just Go With It (though Jennifer Aniston being so damn fine in that last title almost makes it worth rewatching). There’s just no denying that Sandler’s schtick has gotten old and tired. The man is lazy and each of his movies now looks more and more like just an excuse to get together with some friends and enjoy a paid holiday. It’s not surprising. He turned in a couple of great performances in Punch Drunk Love and Spanglish, but they didn’t exactly set the box office alight. The godawful Jack And Jill, on the other hand, raked in approximately $150 Million worldwide and I defy anyone to watch the trailer for that movie and think of people actually paying money to see it.
This brings us to That’s My Boy, a movie that certainly isn’t as bad as Jack And Jill, but still isn’t Sandler back on top form. He plays Donny Berger, a man-child (surprise, surprise) who reunites with his son, Todd (Andy Samberg), just days before Todd’s wedding. Todd really doesn’t want anything to do with Donny, who he views as the worst dad in the world. In fact, he’d rather tell everyone that his parents are dead. Why? Well, Todd was the result of an illicit liaison between Donny and a teacher named Miss McGarricle (played in her youth by Eva Amurri Martino and then in her older incarnation by Eva’s mother, Susan Sarandon). Miss McGarricle went to prison and Donny was left with a son to raise, despite being a young teen himself. It didn’t go well. Cue many laughs as Donny proceeds to try to make up for some lost time by being there for Todd on the run up to his big day.
The script by David Caspe, as well as a number of folk (including Sandler) giving uncredited help, has moments that are pretty funny and director Sean Anders makes the obvious choices when it comes to putting the whole film together. Nothing slows the film up, the soundtrack is full of lively tunes and it’s all pretty much sun-soaked and far from any hint of darkness, despite the strange starting point for the movie.
Adam Sandler puts on another annoying voice, but he has some good moments. Andy Samberg fares better, thanks to just being a less annoying onscreen presence. The support cast features a mix of the usual suspects – Nick Swardson, Blake Clark, Rachel Dratch – and the folks who fit nicely into their characters – Leighton Meester, Vanilla Ice playing Vanilla Ice, Milo Ventimiglia, Will Forte, Tony Orlando, Luenell and Ciara – and a couple of big names who could at least have the decency to look a bit more embarrassed while slumming it – James Caan and Susan Sarandon.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Caan and Sarandon, they both have a bit of fun onscreen and what’s wrong with that? Nothing. As for Vanilla Ice playing himself, he’s more fun than John McEnroe and easier to accept in this kind of film than Al Pacino.
The laughs are there for those who can enjoy some crude humour, and I count myself among that lot, but it’s just a shame that the film has moments in which it seems to equate fun with childish and abusive antics and being an obnoxious, undiplomatic drunkard with being a good guy. As is so often the case, Sandler’s character is the one who is portrayed as having a positive influence on his loved ones, despite seeming, to myself and many others, like nothing more than a big douchebag.
If you like Sandler, Samberg and their usual selection of friends then I can’t imagine you being too disappointed by this. It’s tasteless, ridiculous and, at times, pretty funny. Mind you, there are still far too many moments that could be deleted from the annals of cinema history without anyone being troubled one little bit.
That’s My Boy landed on shiny disc form on Monday 21st January. The DVD features a gag reel and deleted scenes while the Blu-ray features those two extras, a few more minutes of footage within the movie and three featurettes. Not exactly overflowing, but if you like the movie at least it’s not on a completely bare disc.
DIRECTOR: SEAN ANDERS
WRITER: DAVID CASPE
STARS: ADAM SANDLER, ANDY SAMBERG, LEIGHTON MEESTER, VANILLA ICE, JAMES CAAN, MILO VENTIMIGLIA, BLAKE CLARK, MEAGEN FAYE, TONY ORLANDO, PEGGY STEWART, WILL FORTE, RACHEL DRATCH, NICK SWARDSON, LUENELL, CIARA, EVA AMURRI MARTINO, SUSAN SARANDON
RUNTIME: 116 MINS APPROX