15 September 2012

Movie Review: That's My Boy


B+

That's My Boy
2012, 116mins, 15
Director: Sean Anders
Writer: David Caspe
Cast includes: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Susan Sarandon, Eva Amurri, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, James Caan 
UK Release Date: 7th September 2012


Adam Sandler has been a divisive comedic presence since bursting onto the scene in the early 90s, the goofy actor regularly hitting major pay dirt at the box-office but perpetually left out to dry by critics. For some people (myself included) Sandler has been responsible for some truly funny films, largely deserving the early success that catapulted him to international stardom. However since the turn of the century the actor has been involved with more turkeys than hits and his moves into serious dramatic acting have been unfairly met with tepid financial response. Things seemingly hit a nadir last year with “Jack & Jill”, a misjudgement from beginning to end, forcing Sandler to cross-dress for giggles. The laughs weren’t forthcoming and the movie sucked. His latest endeavour “That’s My Boy” marks an unusual move into R-rated territory, bringing together a talented ensemble (Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, James Caan, Susan Sarandon) with Sandler at the centre. Still, even these factors couldn’t prevent the movie from clunking stateside, where reviews were damning and audiences largely stayed away. So I guess “That’s My Boy” isn’t going to be converting any haters. However if you’re partial to a bit of manic Sandler bombast then the picture is actually entertaining in the crudest and most ridiculous fashion possible. It’s infantile, puerile and unabashedly lowbrow, but heck, I chuckled a lot.

Donny Berger (Adam Sandler, stupid haircut, silly voice) was a celebrity in the 80s after impregnating a school teacher at age 12. Neglecting his son (named Han Solo) in favour of living the high life, Donny is now in his 40s, alone and in debt. He owes the IRS over $40,000, having been gifted a few days to come up with the money before he is jailed. Per chance he uncovers that his estranged son has become very successful and is to be married that weekend, prompting Donny to attempt a staged reunion between him, child and the imprisoned mother for TV profit. Rolling up to the wedding he finds that Han has changed his name to Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg) and is a neurotic worrier, emotionally scarred by his bizarre upbringing. Assuming the guise of Todd’s best friend, Donny attempts to reconnect with his boy, much to the chagrin of the latter’s domineering fiancĂ©e Jamie (Leighton Meester).  The guests take a shine to Donny’s absurd mannerisms, but as the weekend draws out it becomes clear he might be doing more harm than good.

Sandler’s performance here is reminiscent of his work in “Little Nicky”, the actor throwing out a wickedly silly accent and a genuine sense of weirdo charisma that’s been missing from the majority of his 21st century output. His turn here is a nice throwback to the “let it all hang out” stupidity that made “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” such distinctive and enjoyable creations, Sandler priming Donny with as much party boy energy as his thespian muscles can muster. I’m sure some portions of the audience will find the actor’s contribution insufferable, but heck, I was just thrilled to have a grade-A jester back to his jocose best.

Samberg makes for a nice straight man, the SNL and Lonely Island player counteracting Sandler’s craziness with an amusing dosage of wimpy angst. He assumes a strong comedic connection with both Sandler and Leighton Meester (left to occupy a largely lifeless harridan role), driving the flick’s sense of momentum and ribcage rattling bravado even further upward. In typical Sandler fashion a selection of Happy Madison regulars and legitimate Hollywood heavyweights help plump out the picture’s pedigree further, each supporting cartoon archetype more absurd than the last.

“That’s My Boy” earns its R-rating and runs wild with it, the picture giving Sandler a license to vulgarise just about every iota of screen time. Racism, masturbation, obesity and incest are just some of the lowbrow corners the film happily tilts into, meaning that a strong stomach is required to glean any pleasure from the venture. However thanks to a zippy cast (seriously Sandler is the funniest here he’s been in years), decent direction by Sean Anders (2008’s middling “Sex Drive”) and a few scorching punch lines the laughs still roll in with aplomb. The level of crude creativity on show is also inspiring, Sandler accessing every recess of his depraved mind to grant “That’s My Boy” a shocking tone few mainstream comedies would dare emulate.

It’s not big and it’s not clever. It’s unlikely to appeal to anyone who has beef with Sandler. However if you can step outside of that demographic and prepare yourself for some undemanding lunacy, “That’s My Boy” serves a mean purpose. The film isn’t completely without heart (the screenplay gifts Sandler and Samberg a few sensitive beats), but it’s largely a blast on the back of its sustained immaturity and infectious buzz. I’m as surprised as you, but in the wake of “Grown Ups” and “Jack and Jill”, I’m happy to recommend “That’s My Boy” in a heartbeat. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012


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