Buckle up! There’s a new, raunchier Adam Sandler comedy in town. In That’s My Boy the of late family man takes on the role of Donny Berger, a washed up reality star trying to reconnect with his grown son.
In 1984 Donny Berger (Sandler) was the kid who wowed America by living his dream. In other words he had sex with his teacher Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri), to such an apparent extent that she becomes pregnant with his child. Acknowledging the law, Donny has to raise the child as a child.
Years after what little star power Donny possessed has faded, he’s behind on his taxes. A promising TV reunion could bail him out, but the trick to pulling it off lies in tricking his now grown and successful son Todd (Andy Samberg), who is in the middle of wedding festivities, into visiting dear old mom.
I’m going to groan my way through some superlatives, but there are refreshing elements to be found within That’s My Boy. The crudest and rudest of Sandler comedies, there’s a graduated level of humor. Less toilet humor, more sex humor. Donny is an unapologetic, uncontrollable mess, which makes for a more appealing Sandler than successful-family-man Sandler. Among the burnout clichés that Sandler lampoons: a Pontiac Fiero, reliance on audiotapes, and always a beer in hand.
How R rated is That’s My Boy? The tame moments involve implied sexual encounters with senior citizen. Efforts go toward the gross-out effect, but never achieve Brüno or Farrelly brothers levels of reaction. It’s like cussing out someone when you don’t know the language.
The Happy Madison team may have upgraded their act, but there are still ingrained fallbacks. Conveniently starting in the ‘80s provides for a circumstance for Sandler’s ‘80s music to take over the film. I do have to give due props for the score which is reminiscent of films of the era, recalling Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. Celebrity cameos are numerous and mostly deplorable. I wonder how well Rex Ryan’s turn as a New England Patriots fanatic will hold up should in a year’s time he’s out of a job or never finds a Super Bowl ring with the Jets. The more reliable running gag is Vanilla Ice, a celebrity whose situation is known by all. Being washed up himself, I can envision Ice’s manager denoting That’s My Boy as his comeback, likely referencing Mike Tyson’s work in The Hangover. I have some bad news for you Mr. Van Winkle, these Sandler films are far more expendable. You should have plotted your Sandler buddy comedy in the mid to late ‘90s.
The formula for the plot is entirely predictable, but the structure is reliable. Of course Donny and Todd are going to rub each other the wrong way only to find some common ground. It’s not a new idea, but That’s My Boy moves along well enough that boredom doesn’t have time to be established. As strange as this may come across, the antics of That’s My Boy are more enjoyable than the Darwin Award intelligence of the scientists found in Prometheus—yes, I went there. These are dofusses in a world where sex with the teach is praised, which beats morons playing out an expensive space drama.
That’s My Boy is a slightly more competent film than the latest guise of the Sandler movie. There’s even gags the writers recall with a degree of competency. The lack of maturity found in Billy Madison finds itself taking on a more adult-oriented lack of maturity. So, if you grew up with the lazy millionaire you may have very well witnessed his fall to depravity. That’s how Billy grows up. **