With Razzie nominations, a 22% rotten score on RottenTomatoes and plenty of critical derision – one reviewer said, ‘It may be the worst film, in any genre, ever made’ – I can’t say I had much hope for That’s My Boy, especially as I’m not exactly a member of the Adam Sandler fan club. However That’s My Boys wasn’t quite as dreadful as I expected – don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great movie, but it was just about watchable
Sandler is Donny Berger who found fame as a young teen for knocking up his teacher. While she was sent to prison, he was left with a kid to raise and an onrush of fame due to his youthful virility getting him treated as a hero. However in the present day his celebrity has faded, his kid is no longer on speaking terms with him and he’s penniless. In fact he’s so skint that he hasn’t paid taxes in years and will go to prison if he doesn’t get $43,000 quickly.
Although he knows his son – whose birth name is Han Solo but who now goes by Todd (Andy Samberg) – won’t want to see him, he hatches a plan to get money from a talk show, where all he need is to get Todd to the prison to talk with his mother and let them catch it on tape. Donny heads for Todd’s house, where his son is only a few days away from marrying the beautiful Jamie (Leighton Meester). Todd doesn’t want his prospective family to know his origins so his dad ends up posing as his friend.
Although Donny is a bit of a trainwreck who never knew how to be a father – and Todd isn’t exactly keen on reconnecting with his dad – the two almost accidentally bond. However with Donny having an ulterior motive for getting together with Todd, it could all be undone if the truth comes to light.
That’s My Boy falls prey to two of the major vices of modern comedy. The first is thinking that the only way to be funny is to be gross, and that the only way for that work is to out-gross everything that’s gone before. As a result the film dips into granny sex, masturbation, statutory rape (and how great that is for young boys) and two run-ins with incest. Although some of these scenarios are potentially funny, they’re used for shock value and have a cheap nastiness about them that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The other main issue is Adam Sandler, who seems to have had a bit of a crisis of confidence in the last couple of years, so that rather than trusting in his own comic abilities, he’s resorted to ever broader caricatures, as if he’s still on Saturday Night Live. It’s a shame as there’s plenty of potential in the character of Donny, as he’s a man who’s spent his entire life making random, often wrong choices, but still believes he’s a good person underneath. The film gives him the opportunity to turn things around, but Sandler plays him in such an annoying way it’s often difficult to care.
The movie also can’t quite decide whether it wants to have a sentimental streak, so it hedges its bets and tries to be both sentimental and stick two fingers up to world at the same time. Like many Sandler comedies it attempts to have its cake and eat it – revelling in everything anti-social and gross, and then timidly trying to say those things are bad at the end and so it’s okay we’ve spent two hours making jokes about them and treating them like they’re great.
All that said, I was surprised by how watchable it is. When the film trusts in itself, concentrating on the relationship between father and son and their uncertain bonding, it’s not bad at all. There are also plenty of scenes where Sandler stops trying too hard to be funny and lets the comedy flow. Even so, it doesn’t really add up to much, and it’s difficult not to feel the movie is squandering a lot of its potential.
Overall Verdict: If you like gross out stupidity you may find two hours in That’s My Boy’s company okay, but it’s a film that’s expends a lot of effort but offers only a very mild payback.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac