Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Sean Anders
Stars: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Milo Ventimiglia, Tony Orlando, Vanilla Ice, Blake Clark, James Caan, Will Forte, Meagan Fay, Rachel Dratch, Nick Swardson, Peggy Stewart, Susan Sarandon, Luenell, Eva Amuri Martino, Justin Weaver, Dan Patrick, Todd Bridges, Alan Thicke, Ian Ziering, Dennis Dugan.
Adam Sandler set an unenviable record when his previous film Jack And Jill dominated the recent Razzie Awards, cleaning up with an impressive haul of 11 awards, the first film in the 30 year history of the awards to win in every category. Given the rather negative critical response to the film, it’s not surprising that Sony has released Sandler’s new film without any media previews. That is never a good sign, so expectations for That’s My Boy were fairly low. And the film lives down to them!
Sandler plays yet another variation of his usual perpetual adolescent here as Donny Berger, an irresponsible, immature man-child, loud-mouthed alcoholic loser from Boston. As a seventh grader Donny was seduced by his teacher Miss McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino) and fathered a child. The scandal made national headlines, and the deed brought him temporary fame, and even a reality tv show. The teacher was locked up in a women’s prison, and his son, christened Han Solo Berger, fled as soon as he was able. Changing his name to Todd Peterson (played by SNL regular Andy Samberg) he has established himself as a reasonably well off hedge fund manager, who is engaged to marry socialite Jamie (Leighton Meester).
But the glory days have long gone, and Donny has since fallen on hard times. Desperate for money to pay $43,000 in back taxes and keep himself out of jail, Donny gate crashes Todd’s elaborate wedding preparations in an attempt to ingratiate himself with his long lost son and collect a lucrative payoff from sleazy television talk show host Randall Morgan (Dan Patrick).
Sandler plays his beer swilling, crude, low life, white trash character here with his usual lack of subtlety. However, the thought that this deadbeat dad could ever redeem himself in such unlikely fashion stretches the imagination. Unfortunately, a wooden Samberg makes for such a gormless, colourless, neurotic and uptight character that it is hard to care for him.
Another hallmark of Sandler’s films has been the stunt casting of respected actors, who demean themselves and willingly undermine their formidable reputations by appearing in such dreck. Here it is Susan Sarandon as the incarcerated teacher, and James Caan, cast as a temperamental Irish priest, who seem ill at ease with their roles. The cast also includes singer Tony Orlando as Todd’s boss, former rapper Vanilla Ice, Milo Ventimiglia as Jamie’s surprisingly hostile brother Chad, and former child star Todd Bridges (from Diff’rent Strokes) playing himself.
Sandler has eschewed his normal directors Franck Coraci and Dennis Dugan, and brought in Sean Anders, who has directed raunchy adolescent fare such as Sex Drive, etc, to give the film a more adult and sexually explicit tone. There is one point when the film descends into disturbingly squalid territory, a misjudgment from which it never recovers. The humour here is offensive on many levels – it is racist, homophobic, mean spirited, and deliberately wallows in bad taste, which is not surprising as writer David Caspe worked on the tv series Happy Endings, etc. There are jokes about masturbation, geriatric sex, incest, bodily fluids, and underage sex that will have many cringing, as very little of it is actually funny. The movie is also far too bloated for what it tries to do, and many scenes hint at padding.
Sandler’s puerile humour always aims for the lowest common denominator, and That’s My Boy is no exception. But Sandler knows his audience too well, and is happy to pander to their lack of discernment. There will be many who will enjoy this uncomfortably gross and tasteless comedy.