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That’s My Boy: The Downward Spiral of Adam Sandler Is Nearly Complete

That’s My Boy
Directed by Sean Anders
Written by David Caspe
Sony, 2012

I used to kind of like Adam Sandler movies.  I know that in most critical circles and with many of my friends, Sandler is and always has been awful.  But I wondered the other day whether my enjoyment of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore is based on the fact that I was 17-18 at the time, or were they genuinely funny?  I’ve seen both of those movies recently and I found myself just as amused.  There was a spirit about those films that Sandler, with all his power to make a comedy with his buddies nowadays, just can’t capture anymore.  All Sandler movies, even the modern ones, have occasional reminders of the cracked nature of those old films, but that’s all they are.

That’s My Boy is Sandler’s first attempt at a real raunchy R-rated comedy, and if you tell me Funny People was in that genre, I guess it counts but that movie isn’t a straight comedy.  The movie begins with a fantastic opening and a great Arrested Development-style joke, as the 14-year-old Donny Burger (Justin Weaver) tries to make the moves on his fantasy-hot math teacher Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino, who has all the sexiness infused from her mother, Susan Sarandon), and is shocked when his advances work.  Soon enough, they’re pounding away every day, but are found out, and all the shenanigans have resulted in a pregnancy.  The reactions from the people at the school, and later courtroom, are priceless, and ring very true.

That’s where nearly all the fun ends, though.  We see a whirlwind of media coverage, Donny becomes a big tabloid hero, but the movie skips 30 years and we don’t see the development of his son, Todd (Andy Samberg), formerly named “Han Solo.”  The movie asks us to fill in the blanks…I guess a kid who is raised by his grandfather for awhile and then his too-young father is going to have a tough life, but we find out Todd left the house at 18, never to be seen by his father again.

Donny, now in his forties, is in debt to the IRS (as we learn with a pretty funny cameo from Jets coach Rex Ryan).  He tries to get a talk show host, Randall Morgan (Dan Patrick), to get him on the show for money Morgan can’t really offer.  But if he gets his son to come visit his mother in prison, Morgan will give him $50,000.  So Donny goes to find his son, about to get married to a way-out-of-his-league Jamie (Leighton Meester), and is living a very successful life, but is totally boring.  Jamie’s family is a bunch of weirdos, especially her marine brother Chad (Milo Ventimiglia).

Just like any meetup, hookup, rekindling in movies of this nature, it starts off with shady intentions, but then Donny sees that he enjoys having a son to party with and teach things to, and he almost forgets about the money he owes.

So this is where the movie makes its first mistake: casting Samberg as straight man to Sandler.  Samberg is frightfully awful in this role, obviously uncomfortable, even though he’s working with one of his heroes: the movie Hot Rod is modeled off that early Sandler I was talking about.  The movie dies as a result, although sprinkled in occasionally are some of those old Sandler nutty moments, and the movie picks up steam when it enters the “bachelor party” phase, only to die back down again.  The Donny character is undercooked: we’re supposed to believe this guy is an awful, horrible piece of white trash, but apparently, he’s wicked good at math AND doesn’t understand how taxes work.  There is probably something to be said for the huge gap the movie asks us to fill in for thirty years that probably could have generated some more comic steam.  I mean, seeing the young Donny trying (and failing) to take care of his kid might have been a good start.  Hell, how about conjugal visits with Mary McGarricle over the years?  We’re supposed to believe he never went to visit her?

That’s the problem the filmmakers have when they have Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg and want to make a comedy duo of a certain age: they miss some great moments that could have made the movie shine.  I would have taken some flashbacks or something like that.  But when one of the legs of the comedy duo has to be such a stuffed shirt, and isn’t suited for that kind of role, then you’re already working without half the comedy you could have had.


Comment from Jonathan
Time: June 15, 2012, 3:49 pm

I have not and will not be seeing this. I’m not a fan of over-the-top gross out humor which I understand this movie excels at. But I do find the casting of Samberg to be an odd choice. Like you said, he really can’t play the straight man, and if much better suited to co-star roles (”I Love You Man”). Also, he looks absolutely nothing like Sandler, and I only bring this up because I keep reading and hearing that he’s perfect casting because they look like they could be brothers. And can we get better stunt casting than Vanilla Ice? I don’t care what anyone says, that can’t work very well. And Sandler’s over-the-top Baustaan accent just sounds awful.

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