Directed By: Sean Anders
Written By: David Caspe
Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester
Adam Sandler is one name that will instantaneously polarize a room. Critics have largely panned his films since their inception, but he has maintained a strong and loyal fan base. Personally I have greatly enjoyed some of Sandler’s comedies, especially Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer. However, I do feel like his career has become stagnant in recent years. In fact with films like Jack and Jill and Just Go With It he has regressed in his efforts and appears content with maintaining his status quo. On paper That’s My Boy looks like it has the recipe needed to reenergize his career. The meshing of Sandler and Andy Samberg is a partnership made in wacky comedy heaven. Both have similar comedy styles, and the idea of them playing father and son strangely makes sense. Regrettably That’s My Boy still suffers from many of the same issues Sandler’s comedies are known for. It’s certainly a better outing than many of his most recent efforts, but it does have you wondering if he will ever again reach the heights of his early career.
Certainly the premise alone will rub some people the wrong way. If you are a person who is easily offended I would stay away from this one as far as you can, but if you are that person I do not know why you would be watching a Sandler film to begin with. In the film Sandler plays Donny, a boy who ‘hit’ it big when he was a teenager. He had a love affair with his teacher, and that affair led to the birth of their son. Eventually their relationship was found out, and his teacher was sent to jail leaving Donny alone to raise their child. Donny actually became a huge celebrity when the world became aware of his sexual escapades. Morning talk shows, TV Movies, and magazine covers were just a few places his presence was felt. Now nearly thirty years the spotlight has lessened and his life is in shambles. His son has shunned him, and he owes the IRS loads of money. So much in fact he is in risk of going to jail. Luckily he has a plan. He will attempt to reconnect with is long lost son, who is now rather successful, in hopes it will solve his money problems.
We all know that Sandler can do outrageous characters. Some have been absolutely hilarious and remain so to this day. Others have worn out their welcome rather quickly. His Donny character is one that got tiresome nearly right from the start. The issue that caused the most grief was the wacky voice, which was unnecessary and extremely over the top. He felt like a character that was better suited for a skit rather than a feature film. That is actually a large issue with this film. Everyone in it is a wacky character of some sort. Almost no one is based in any type of reality. When everyone is off the wall, no one is. You need people in the movie who have a foot in reality so they can act as the personification of our own embarrassment. Otherwise the ridiculous thing that just happened is weightless. Bob Barker punching out Happy Gilmore is funny in its own right, but it’s made even funnier when we see the mortified reactions of the people witnessing the shocking act. Sure seeing a ridiculous person doing a ridiculous thing can be funny, but it’s not nearly as memorable when it’s sandwiched in-between a torrent of craziness.
Strangely enough the only person who was given the straight guy role was Andy Samberg, who played Donny’s son Todd. Todd has tried to distance himself from his father for years. They have stopped talking to one another years ago, and Todd has even gone as far as changing his name and altering his past so no one would know that Donnie is his father. When Donnie reappears back into his life it could not be at a worse time. He is about to get married and will hopefully soon become a partner at his current job. Now with his father resurfacing in his life the entire world he built may be destroyed. Watching Samberg try to deal with Sandler’s craziness provided some of the best laughs in the film, because it was one of the few times were he had a straight man to playoff of. I never would have pictured Samberg as a straight man, but it works. Some may worry that they aren’t properly using his talents, like making a power hitter bunt for a base hit, but they pepper enough foolishness to allow him to be himself.
That’s My Boy is not without laughs, but much of it is filled with lazy attempts at comedy that aim for the lowest common dominator and hit even lower. Much of the comedy is juvenile and filled with jokes that have been done in Sandler films before. It felt like it was written by a bunch of middle school teens at a lunch room table that were trying to make the ultimate Sandler fanboy movie. Almost every joke was forced and made little to no sense in context of the story. When comedy is full of haphazard occurrences that have no cohesion towards any type of plot or character it becomes tiresome and ineffective. (Cough…Family Guy…Cough) You have those same issues here. It’s a string of random happenings that are lazy and lack any type of imagination. For example there are a ton of random cameos that assume you will find them funny simply based on recognition. Everyone from NFL coaches to washed up sitcom stars grace the screen from one point or another. Though in fairness, their use of a formerly popular 90’s rap star was particularly amusing. Comedy does not need to be smart to be funny. We all know comedy is subjective and tough to criticize. Who really knows why we may find certain things hilarious and others are applaud at the same topics. I’m sure many will enjoy everything that That’s My Boy gives them, but I’m also sure that number is far less than the amount of people that will leave unsatisfied and annoyed.