Movie Review: That’s My Boy

Adam Sandler as Donny Berger in "That's My Boy"

It’s getting so bad, you have to wonder if Adam Sandler doesn’t sit in his gazillion dollar mansion, flipping through scripts, looking for the worst possible piece of crap he can find. “Nope, not bad enough … nope, not this one either. Wait a minute! Here’s one with incest, child rape, multiple scenes of masturbating to Grandma, followed by copulation with Grandma herself, involuntary defecation, a bridegroom humping a wedding dress, then vomiting on it, followed by the bride sampling the remains. Perfect!”

Oh no … did I just commit spoiler-cide? On the other hand, applying the term “spoiler” to That’s My Boy is unnecessary – it’s already rotten to the core.

Perhaps the crassest film yet in Sandler’s halting oeuvre, David Caspe’s script starts off with a 14-year-old Donny Berger finding himself happily seduced by his junior high school teacher. She ends up pregnant; while she faces prison, little Donny has to face fatherhood. No surprise, he’s not very good at it. 30 years later, the love child named Han Solo has disowned his dad, changed his name to Todd (Andy Samberg) and is about to get married to the suspiciously solicitous Jamie (Leighton Meester). Meanwhile, the down-and-out Donny (Sandler) owes $43,000 to the IRS. And it seems the only way he can raise that kind of cash is by agreeing to a reality TV showdown involving himself, the still imprisoned mother and their son.

On the way from A to B, we get the wacky weekend pre-wedding festivities (including all the grotesque bits referred to above), plus so much more. In Sandler’s universe, the grosser, the better. Or – framed in terms of box office receipts – the grosser, the grosser. Sadly, it seems that whenever producer/filmmaker Sandler releases a movie with some substance (Funny People, Punch-Drunk Love), its critical success is balanced by its financial failure. E.g., while such fiascos as Big Daddy and Grownups reflected worldwide profits of $234 million and $271 million respectively, Funny People and Punch-Drunk Love came in at $71 million and $24 million worldwide. Though he usually plays the fool onscreen, it seems that Sandler is far from a fool economically.

And speaking of fools … in this film, Sandler is more difficult to watch than usual, reminiscent of a feeble Jerry Lewis wannabe with a Boston accent. In Caspe’s idiotic screenplay, though Donny is introduced to us as a total loser, when he shows up at the estate to reconnect with his son he’s suddenly the life of the party, his crass behavior inexplicably welcomed by the snooty upper class. His yodels of “Whaaaaas’ Up?” are met as if they’re sheer comedic genius. It seems that the funny resides only in the minds of Sandler and his filmmakers.

(l to r) Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Tony Orlando in "That's My Boy"

As for co-lead Samberg, he squanders any opportunity to impress. Rather than seizing the chance to depict some vulnerability as the son forced to parent himself, Samberg gives us a character who is stiff and priggish, distancing himself from any empathy we might have had.

Ironically, the only main character who manages to appear believable is Vanilla Ice (playing himself), who just so happens to be Donny’s close friend. The rapper’s low-key persona effectively undercuts all the mugging and hysteria swirling around him. Gee … when it turns out that the only cast member who appears credible onscreen is the non-actor, we have to wonder at director Sean Anders’ approach.

But if assorted body fluids freely leaking throughout sounds appealing, with more fat jokes than you can shake a breadstick at, this just may be your favorite Adam Sandler film yet. As for those who can take or leave an Adam Sandler comedy (the prior three words reflecting a moronic oxymoron), go ahead and leave it. Another one will probably be coming along soon. Much too soon.

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Rating on a scale of 5 teenage wastelands: 0.5

Release date: June 15, 2012
Directed by: Sean Anders
Written by: David Caspe
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, James Caan, Vanilla Ice, Will Forte
Rating: R
Running Time: 114 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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