Well, Adam Sandler went ahead and made another movie. At this point, it’s pretty clear what that means. It’s going to be dumb, there’s going to be no point to the experience beyond some sort of irritatingly pat message about connecting with friends and/or family, a few of his friends will have cameos as will some sort of celebrity, he’s going to do a silly voice, someone is going to fart, it’s going to get terrible reviews, and it’s going to make more cash than everything that came out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival combined. Every one of those things is true of That’s My Boy, but there are a couple of pleasant surprises. Sandler actually appears to be trying (well, at least a bit), it’s not a movie geared to the broadest possible family audience, and there were several times when I laughed. Make no mistake, this is still a completely immature manchild comedy that follows the simplest possible screenwriting conventions, yet it at least has the anarchistic spirit of Sandler’s earliest movies (you know, before got gushy and became a billionaire in the process) and it’s the fist time he’s attempted the offensive for the sake of being offensive humor of his comedy albums since getting into movies. Make no mistake, this is far not a great film, but given how far the bar has been lowered for Happy Madison productions in a post Bucky Larson, Grown Ups, and Jack and Jill world, the thing is better than expected.
This deliberately puerile and dirty movie starts off by applauding statutory rape and goes into even more disgusting directions from there. At 14, Sandler’s Donny Burger seduced one of his high school teachers. As tends to happen in these situations, she went to prison. But not before getting pregnant and turning Donny into a minor celebrity. Of course he’s also got a kid and unsurprisingly isn’t a great father. Flash forward 27 years and now Donny’s a burn out who needs to pay almost $50,000 to the IRS or face prison time. In desperation and on the advice of his favorite stripper, Donny decides to try and find the son who abandoned him at 18 for the noble purpose of reuniting the family for a sleazy tabloid TV show. Andy Samberg plays the kid who changed his name (from his birth name Han Solo Burger), became a successful hedge fund manager, and is about to marry a beautiful lady. Think Donny’s presence might cause some troubles followed by father/son bonding? Well, you’re right although far more raunchy gags and spilled bodily fluids will come in the middle than you’d expect.
Sandler has two modes of performances in his films, a slight variation on himself for a romantic lead, and a wacky character defined by a silly voice. That’s My Boy falls into the latter category with Sandler whipping up a Masshole accent and sticking to it as he plays an alcoholic who never has a beer, gross out story, or boner less than a few seconds away. He’s actually fairly funny in the role. It’s one note, but the disgusting things that spill out of his mouth clash well against the rich family man image of his last few movies and you can tell how much fun he’s having being filthy. Andy Samberg essentially plays straight man and while he’s an inherently likable screen presence, he feels wasted. The usual rogues gallery of comedy cameos in a Sandler movie make an appearance with Will Forte doing his nasal nerd thing well, Milo Ventimigla doing what he can with a standard military tough guy role, James Caan coming out of nowhere to amuse as a violent Irish priest, Peggy Stewart providing the requisite filthy grandma, and a gratuitous Nick Swardson cameo confirming he’s Sandler’s new Rob Schneider (aka a guy who can’t get work poppa Sandler doesn’t provide). As is standard in men behaving badly comedies, all of the women onscreen are either objects of ridicule, deceit, or desire. Even cameos from talented comediennes like Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer don’t pay off.
The movie was nominally written by Happy Endings’ David Caspe and directed by Sean Anders, but was clearly run through the Happy Madison machine and feels very much like part of the house style. The only difference is the relentless desire to offend and break taboos that’s almost audacious in its own lowbrow way (the only reason this movie got financed by a studio and an R rating is because Sandler’s name is on it, simple as that). That’s My Boy is overlong, shaggy, and stumbles across the finish line, but has just enough funny and/or outrageous scenes to keep audiences awake. The celebrity cameos and hit-to-miss joke ratio is far better than the usual comedies from this crowd. I know that’s all faint praise that probably sounds like I’m desperately trying to justify laughing at something that’s nearly impossible to finding redeeming value in. That’s because…well, I am. See enough Adam Sandler movies and your comedy standards lower. This is one of his good ones, the best since You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. In the grand scheme of things, that’s ain’t saying much, but in a world where Bedtime Stories exists, that almost counts as high praise.