It’s only fitting that Adam Sandler rose to fame as a comedian after recording a song about being sodomized with a shampoo bottle, because the films produced by his Happy Madison crew these days are sort of like that shampoo and our minds are his ass. Sandler’s latest offering, That’s My Boy, is yet another display of how lazy Sandler has become, as my friend and I spent the entire hour and 56 minutes trying to count how many jokes we could recognize from Sandler’s previous movies.
Donny Berger is a foul-mouthed Boston stereotype with an accent so ridiculous that people in Massachusetts should be able to declare this film a hate crime. In a story that was torn from the headlines of 1997, Berger starts out as an all-talk teenager, lusting after his smoking hot teacher (Eva Amurri). Without any real explanation, she bites and they’re suddenly f*cking all over town.
In the only great scene of the film, they’re caught boning on a piano backstage during the student council election speeches, and Miss McGarricle is promptly sentenced to a few decades in prison, only after it is revealed that she’s pregnant. The judge awards custody of the child to Donny’s father, but all that matters is that Donny is now an American pop culture icon, or so the title sequence quickly explained.
Fast forward to today – Donny is broke, alone, and a sad afterthought trying desperately to cling to the scraps of his fame. He also owes $43,000 in back taxes to the IRS or he’ll soon be joining the mother of his child in prison. Thankfully, Donny’s ragtag crew of friends, including an obese black stripper and the cross-eyed pervert Kenny (Nick Swardson), convinces him to go ask his son, Han Solo Berger AKA Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg) for the cash. Donny can’t bring himself to beg the son he hasn’t spoken to in years, so he instead solicits a reunion show at the women’s prison to Dan Patrick in a terrible wig for $50,000. He just has to get his son and former teacher (now Susan Sarandon) in the same room.
What follows is a story of one man’s redemption as told through a series of jokes that were peeled off the cutting room floor of Sandler’s previous films, and in some cases, Sandler even just said, “F*ck it” and used the same jokes. The second I saw the Pontiac Fiero with the Rush logo on the hood, I pictured Billy Madison’s Trans Am, just as I thought Big Daddy while the guys pissed on a restaurant and Waterboy when Blake Clark was pinching his nipple rings. Sandler and his Happy Madison yes-men have officially entered the “Been There, Done That” phase of their careers.
That’s My Boy employs many of Sandler’s traditional “comedy” tactics, from the old lady saying funny things or fornicating (in this case both) to people of random ethnicities spouting ridiculous one-liners. In this case, Sandler needlessly shoehorns an elderly Chinese couple as the servants of Todd’s obnoxious boss, Steve (Tony Orlando). Orlando, too, represents one of Sandler’s clichés, as the squeaky-clean celebrity playing high-lariously against type. In Happy Gilmore, it was Bob Barker calling Sandler a bitch. In That’s My Boy, it’s Orlando calling his ex-wives whores. Nothing new here.
Additionally, Sandler’s love for cameos causes a huge distraction, with Rex Ryan, Erin Andrews, and Baron Davis all having roles. But it’s Vanilla Ice that shows up 20 years too late as a parody of himself. At first I thought he just had a cameo, but no – he’s in a third of the damn movie! He’s not an actor. He’s not funny. Suddenly, Sandler, who captured the 80s so delightfully with The Wedding Singer, is trying desperately to ask us: “Hey, remember the 80s and 90s?” I wish he would have just strangled me with a slap bracelet instead.
If it’s not Todd fighting James Caan off with a crane kick, it’s Alan Thicke and Ian Ziering starring in The Donny Berger Story. If it’s not “WASSSUP!!!”, it’s Milo Ventimiglia channeling Chet from Weird Science. If it’s not an incredibly obscure Spencer’s Gifts joke, it’s Vanilla Ice’s Walkman. I’d almost be concerned that Sandler is suffering a nervous breakdown based on how sloppy this movie is, but I know that it’s just another display of “Hey, it’s funny to us.”
That’s My Boy ultimately rushes its way to an absurd, sloppy, and shamefully predictable ending. In fact, with an R-rating, I hoped that Sandler would be a little cleverer. Instead, he and writer David Caspe (who is responsible for ABC’s Happy Endings, which gave me a shred of hope) went with shock value.
Sadly, the only real shock came at the box office. Looks like Sandler and Co. might actually have to care about making us laugh again.
Grade: F- (I laughed zero times, and not even in an “I can’t laugh because I’ll hate myself” way.)