By: Addison Wylie
It all starts with a star. In this case, a star with far too many strikes against him, Adam Sandler.
Adam Sandler has proved last year that their not all going to be winners. Last year, we had Just Go With It, Zookeeper, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, and his Razzie award winner Jack & Jill. All which received overwhelming negative buzz and left a bad taste in the comedy genre.
The thing that was enticing about Sandler’s latest, That’s My Boy, was its hard R-rating. The household name hasn’t starred in a raunchy comedy in years, and in a generation where audiences ate up The Hangover, Sandler’s curiosity was bound to snag this opportunity to cuss and talk about inappropriate things in order to entertain his adult fans. He plans to do this while talking in a funny voice and laughing incessantly as the immature Donny Berger.
The star is surrounded by other known actors, such as recent SNL alum Andy Samberg. Samberg plays Todd Peterson, Berger’s son. Peterson, however, wants nothing to do with his lewd Father; and we can’t blame him.
Before naming his son Han Solo, a young Donny Berger (played awkwardly by Justin Weaver but, damn, does he do a good Sandler impression) was in public school making silly and crude advances to one of his teachers, Ms. McGarricle (played by Eva Martino). His teacher easily caves in, spills her love for Donny while making sexual advances towards him in detention, and the two begin their secret affair. This leads towards a student/teacher pregnancy leading to McGarricle going to prison, in turn leaving Donny to take care of the baby which inevitably leads to Han leaving at age 18 and changing his name.
That’s My Boy had a trailer and tv spots that ran constantly, so the movie going public is familiar with the film’s odd and twisted premise. However, it’s a set-up that works better as a 40 second segment in a two minute trailer.
Simply put, the story of Donny and McGarricle’s romance is graceless, uncomfortable, and not funny. The scenes where Weaver and Martino are flirting with each other feel icky because the film is doing everything it can do to not state the obvious, that McGarricle is a child molester. The material isn’t handled as a dark comedy or a biting satire, but as a comedy where this is deemed as ok. When Donny and his teacher are caught having sex, people cheer, teachers high-five, and Donny earns success and boatloads of cash. We want to laugh along but we can’t because we don’t want anything to do with these mishandled and gross jokes.
It’s also set-up in such a way that reminds us that if the genders were switched and the teacher was a good-looking guy and the student was a big-talking but innocent girl, this script would not make it past the greenlighting stage. So, why is it ok for a female teacher to have sex with an eager but naive boy? Not a good start to a comedy, to say the least.
As the anticipation of the new Sandler flick made us dig in our wallets for our hard-earned cash, movie going audiences had no idea what they were in for regarding the bland script and the flawed direction.
That’s My Boy is another one of these “comedies” that has a premise made for a short film that is then stretched out for two hours. It’s also another one of those tedious movies where a wedding takes place, meaning we have to see each stage of the wedding unfold to a climactic ceremony where twists are revealed.
What makes things worse is that when the film is finished being tasteless before the opening credits, David Caspe’s script coasts on less than fumes, with jokes that are complete and utter flatliners. You can almost hear each vulgar swear and talk about genitalia and masturbation hit the ground with a splat ala Wile E. Coyote.
Usually a director can pump some sort of life into a script by adding visual flare or giving actors a sense to care about the film they’re starring in. Unfortunately, director Sean Anders fumbles big time and makes his film less than attractive and his actors look beyond bored.
Anders has impressed me in the past with his conventional but very funny take on gross-out road movies (Sex Drive) and with his screenwriting abilities (Hot Tub Time Machine and She’s Out of My League). However, with his screenwriting work on the disappointing Mr. Popper’s Penguins and now his directorial work on this plodding waste of time, I’m afraid audiences are witnessing an extreme career low for the filmmaker.
The star’s light begins to dim due to the weight of the bulky script and lazy direction; both incapable of making anyone laugh. Our only hope is when surprise recognizable faces grace the screen (Will Forte, Milo Ventimiglia, James Cann, Vanilla Ice!), we will hopefully be able to laugh by their line deliveries. Instead, their talents are swallowed up by the incompetency.
Sandler, the rest of the acting and filmmaking company, and the film as a whole collapses in on itself. The dead weight is too much! Any chance of the film succeeding fades away after each long winded scene of zero humour or emotion.
I’ve never seen how a black hole is formed until now. That’s My Boy has managed to be the cinematic equivalent to a gaping void in the middle of space that sucks everything and anything in. Here’s hoping Donny Berger doesn’t try to have sex with it.