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Sandler Sinks Even Lower with That's My Boy

  • Jeffrey Huston Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2012 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
Sandler Sinks Even Lower with <i>That's My Boy</i>

DVD Release Date: October 16, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: June 15, 2012
Rating: R (for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use)
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 116 min.
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, James Caan, Milo Ventimiglia, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, Rachel Dratch

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following review contains discussion of mature subject matter. Parents please be advised.

When an Adam Sandler movie lives up to expectations it’s not a good thing.  That’s My Boy does that and then some, plunging not only to new depths of witless stupidity but out-and-out depravity. This is Sandler’s raunchiest entry to date (which is saying something when you consider a few of his past hard-R flicks), reveling in it with such juvenile jolly that something becomes abundantly clear: this (and things like it) is why the terrorists hate us. And I’m not even joking.

Sandler doesn’t deserve a jihad for what he often dumps onto our culture but he certainly doesn’t deserve our money or time either. That he often gets both (and likely will here again) is pretty depressing, actually; even if you set moral offensiveness aside (which works on a relative scale) it’s a bit soul-sucking to acknowledge that his output of idiocy has such mass appeal. 

His box office numbers themselves should be considered a sign of the apocalypse—and I say that as a person who often found his absurd sketch comedy on Saturday Night Live to be smart, subversive, and on occasion borderline genius. Sandler’s films, on the other hand (specifically those he writes, produces and stars in), are embarrassments of laziness. He’s not a comedian, he’s a goof—one who doesn’t seem to care enough to try.

As with many Sandler comedies, That’s My Boy starts with an interesting hook: Adam Sandler is fellow SNL alum Andy Samberg’s dad. Given the similar roles each filled for different generations on NBC’s iconic TV show, that’s a great idea—but the appeal stops in concept only as, right from the get-go, the actual reality of that concept tests the limits of what’s funny. Samberg’s Todd Peterson is the illegitimate son of Sandler’s Donny Berger who, while early in high school, had an ongoing affair with the hot teacher (which drew audible gasps and ewwwws of disgust in my preview audience). 

She gets pregnant and is sent to jail for the maximum thirty years, Donny names the boy Han Solo and raises him as poorly as any person who refuses to grow up would, and once Han turns eighteen he moves on, changes his name to something normal, and refuses to see his father ever again. Complicating Todd’s ability to start over is the level of fame Donny reached when the statutory rape scandal broke back in the 1980s. 

Donny was an instant tabloid celebrity and rode that fame as far as he could. Now he’s broke and will go to jail if he doesn’t pay over $40,000 in back taxes. When he looks to stage a “family reunion” for a daytime talk show that’ll pay him the 40 G’s and then some, the estranged Donny must maneuver his way back into Todd’s life on the very week leading up to Todd’s wedding. That’s a difficult task, to be sure, but nothing a lot of bachelor party bonding can’t apparently fix.

It’s an over-complicated contrivance that’s set up for no other reason than to do what Sandler movies normally do: have Adam play the loveable loser, someone who’s a screw-up and down on his luck, with the ability to charm others even as he embarrasses those closest to him. That’s exactly what Donny does to Todd even as Todd’s future in-laws find Donny’s crude but lively and sincere bravado endearing. 

Granted Donny’s not actually anywhere close to endearing or convincing, but it sure helps that every character is nothing more than a broad cartoon that fills a standard Sandler movie archetype (right down to the sassy and sexually voracious elderly woman). All go along with whatever silliness Sandler’s script needs them to be dupes for, which includes buying yet another outrageous accent by Sandler (an over-the-top Boston one, in this case).

From start to finish, That’s My Boy is fueled by vulgarity. The profanity is non-stop, the sexual jokes and references are pervasive, nudity is frequent (even beyond the multiple strip club scenes), and occasional sexual encounters—from conventional to oral to solo—reach various levels of explicitness. There’s no actual comedy in any of this; it’s not funny in the purest sense. The humor is predicated on shock value alone, on what someone might inappropriately say or do and nothing else. While shock inevitably elicits a reaction (how can it not?), it’s always a cheap, easy, and ultimately empty one—which is exactly what this film is.

Sandler’s characters follow an arc that clearly mirrors his career: people let him get away with anything because, at the end of it all, they know his heart is in the right place. And it is, because the family moments are as cheesy as the comedy is raunchy. That combination is the immature fantasy of way too many adult males: Let me be as stupid and foolish and irresponsible as I want to be because I still mean well. I’m a good person who just wants everyone to be happy, even if I go about showing it in the most adolescent and destructive ways. That doesn’t work in real life but always does in Adam Sandler movies, and that’s probably why there’ll always be an audience for whatever puerilism Sandler churns out.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Near-constant alcohol consumption by Sandler’s Donny. It’s a running joke that he always has a beer to drink. A lot of actual consumption at parties and strip clubs, drunkenness, etc., all portrayed as fun. An extended no-holds-barred bachelor party sequence with multiple people getting wasted. Smoking from a bong occurs in a few scenes by several people. Cocaine use is portrayed in one scene, comedically.
  • Language/Profanity: A specific citation of every one would be longer than the review. Suffice it to say the profanity is constant, in every conversation and scene, and uses all forms, variations and combinations (the f-word especially), including regular use of sexual slang, explicit sexual references, and detailed references and descriptions of sexual acts.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: With the visual and conversational references combined, they are too numerous to mention. In conversations the sexual jokes and slang are pervasive, and visually the nudity sex gags are numerous. A few (but not exhaustive) examples: A female teacher seduces a young high school male, they have sex more than once (which is mostly heard), including a moment where they’re exposed in the act in front of the entire school when a stage curtain falls. Teacher is topless. Many scenes take place in a strip club; numerous topless dancers are seen, both performing as well as lap-dancing. A couple is caught having sex in the front seat of a car, involving nudity. A stripper is seen performing oral sex. An extended scene of a man masturbating under a bed cover. Several semen jokes, including a woman licking/tasting semen residue off of a dress. Both male and female nudity, at times with only the genitals barely covered (in both gender cases). A man and woman having sex in a bed. To name a few.
  • Violence/Other: There are some cartoonish fistfights. Several people get knocked unconscious by being hit over the head with blunt objects. A few scenes of vomiting.