Have you poured out a bowl of your favorite cereal, got the milk from the fridge, poured the milk over your cereal and taken a big bite only to discover the milk had gone bad? That’s an unpleasant surprise. Have you gone out on a date, eaten dinner at a nice restaurant, had a perfectly nice evening then when you’re ready to leave you discover your car has a flat tire? That’s an unpleasant surprise. When you walk into a theatre prepared to watch a movie that you know will probably be terrible in most respects but should be funny and you see something the Supreme Court would probably declare obscene, that’s an unpleasant surprise. So, let me tell you about this week’s movie “That’s My Boy.”
When he was 13, Donny Berger (Adam Sandler) had sex with a teacher at his school, Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri). After getting caught committing the deed on stage during a school assembly, Ms. McGarricle was arrested and tried for statutory rape where it’s revealed she’s pregnant with Donny’s child. After being found guilty the judge sentences her to 30 years in prison and orders the child be placed in Donny’s father’s custody until Donny’s 18th birthday when he will take over raising the child he names Han Solo Berger. Thirty years later, Donny, who parlayed his trashy exploits into fleeting pop culture fame, has hit hard times and owes the IRS $43,000 in back taxes. If he doesn’t pay up in a few days he’ll go to jail for three years. Desperate for cash, Donny approaches talk show host Randall Morgan (Dan Patrick) who says if Donny can get Han to the prison to see his mother, Morgan will film it for his show and pay Donny $50,000. Han, who now calls himself Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg), is a successful businessman about to marry Jamie (Leighton Meester) in a lavish ceremony at the beachfront home of his boss Steve Spirou (Tony Orlando). Todd has told everyone his parents died in an explosion when he was a child because he’s so ashamed and embarrassed about his family history. When Donny arrives for the wedding, Todd passes him off as his best friend from the old neighborhood and Donny spins a yarn about saving Todd’s life. The story impresses everyone except Jamie who thinks Donny is a crude bore. Todd wants Donny to leave, but everyone insists he stay for the wedding and even replaces one of Todd’s co-workers as the best man. Donny’s presence livens up the conservative pre-wedding festivities and drives Todd crazy.
I was one of a very few people who enjoyed Adam Sandler’s last movie “Jack and Jill.” While I could recognize it as a piece of trash, it made me laugh, was mildly redeemed by the story of familial forgiveness and was only slightly crude and vulgar. “That’s My Boy” also made me laugh but I cannot give it the pass I gave the previous film because it is far more raunchy and digs for humor in the comedic minefields of statutory rape, unearned fame and even incest. After watching the film I felt the need for a long, hot shower and a thorough scrubbing to chisel the filth off of me.
As with most of Sandler’s films of late, “That’s My Boy” follows a very predictable storyline that is obvious when the conflict is established. You know Donny is going to try and make the jailhouse interview happen but along the way he will discover he has true paternal feelings for his son. You also know Todd is going to find out about the overdue taxes and any goodwill he might feel towards his father will be washed away by the revelation. There will be some kind of event that brings father and son back together again. The only unanswered question is what the peripheral events revolving around the story will be.
Here is where I give the film a little credit. There are numerous cameos and supporting roles from some surprising choices. Vanilla Ice has a big role playing himself as a long-time friend of Donny’s and Todd’s “Uncle Van” who now works as a food vendor on the boardwalk. Ice doesn’t seem to mind having fun poked at him or having others take shots at his dubious rapper history. He handles the role with surprising ease. Todd Bridges of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame also plays himself as Ice’s boss. While his role is smaller, he goes further out on a limb by portraying himself as a drug abuser. Bridges has a long history of addiction. Other cameos in the film include ESPN’s Erin Andrews, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, R&B singer Ciara, 1990’s TV stars Alan Thicke and Ian Ziering, James Caan and Susan Sarandon and several of Sandler’s friends from comedy like Nick Swardson, Will Forte and Ana Gasteyer. Each of these actors or celebrities brings a little surprise when they appear on screen, even if they’re in the movie only for a few seconds. Some of them actually help take your mind off of just how crude the movie is. Unfortunately, that effect isn’t permanent.
It’s hard to describe just how gross this movie is. There are so many ways the film tries to shock a laugh out of the audience. Sometimes it actually works but too often it just thuds against your brain and causes a bit of your intelligence to disappear. There are several jokes about self-pleasure, several about sex with the elderly and an uncountable number about sex in general. When a major plot point involving incest is revealed it gets tossed off like any other sex joke. It was at this point the film became completely irredeemable in my mind. No matter how funny the rest of the movie was it wouldn’t be able to crawl back from the bottom of the cesspool it created for itself. Everything in the film became tainted by this willingness to stoop to such a low level.
Aside from a repugnant story, the film also suffers from the laziness of using foul language as a substitute for actual dialog. While I usually have no issue with cursing in movies, the makers of “That’s My Boy” go overboard in the F-bomb department as well as throwing in every other swear word and crude sexual reference they could think of. Foul language in movies works when it is organic to the characters and the story. Here, it just feels like children talking dirty and giggling about it afterwards.
“That’s My Boy” is rated R for nudity, crude sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use. We see scantily clad and topless strippers as part of Todd’s bachelor party. We also see a nude male backside. There are several instances of men pleasuring themselves as well as a great deal of discussion about sex acts. There are two instances of illegal drug use and they are very brief. As mentioned earlier, foul language is common.
I went into “That’s My Boy” with an open mind. I knew it would stoop to the lowest possible level but I believed that Sandler would manage to find some universal humor in the subject matter. For the most part he does but takes the joke too far and winds up driving the film off a cliff. Considering its anemic opening weekend box office take of just over $13-million, many people are refusing to jump off the same ledge along with Sandler.
“That’s My Boy” gets one guitar out of five.
The animated tale of a strong-willed red-headed maiden and a bit of revisionist history involving the 16th president of the United States is the two new options headed to theatres this week. Vote for the next movie I see and review.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter—Exploring the secret life of our greatest president, and the untold story that shaped our nation.
Brave—Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor who is determined to carve her own path in life.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently playing in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
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