That’s My Boy
Coming off a record-breaking sweep of the Razzies earlier this year, Adam Sandler has something to prove. His name has now become intimately associated with bad comedies due to a string of subpar offerings. While most of his movies do well at the box office, when was the last time anyone made an appointment to see an Adam Sandler movie? "That’s My Boy" is Sandler attempting to shake up his usual formula, but the results are barely any better.
As of late, all of Sandler’s movies have been built around him as a family man - whether it is his own family or gaining a family unexpectedly through some scheme. Rather than following this trend, the comic is backtracking to the more lucrative characters from the beginning of his career. His character here has more in common with classic characters Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore than more recent ones like Lenny from "Grown Ups" or Danny from "Just Go With It."
More than two decades before there was "Teen Mom," there was Donny Berger. After having an affair with a teacher, Donny became a single father and an overnight celebrity at the age of 13. Rather than being a responsible parent he basked in the fame and partied his life and money away. Now, as a washed up former celebrity, Donny is in trouble with the IRS due to a $43,000 tax bill that has to be paid within three days or he will end up in jail. The only way to avoid the slammer is to arrange a televised family reunion, but there is just one problem - his son hates him. As time ticks down, Donny has to crash his son’s wedding to try to win back his affection.
Written by David Caspe, creator of the hilarious TV show "Happy Endings," "That’s My Boy" is lacking the wit and bite of his small screen creation. At times, the film comes off like a 13-year-old’s wet dream. The opening sequence, taking place in 1984, plays out with every bad 80s sex comedy cliché with the setup being stolen from a bad porn film. Caspe does get a few good bits into the film that help to demonstrate "Gossip Girl" star Leighton Meester’s ability to deliver comedic zingers as skillfully as the acidic barbs she is used to throwing.
Caspe’s trademark for including pop culture references is on display in the form of cameos. Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges appear as themselves, while "Beverly Hills, 90210" actor Ian Ziering and Alan Thicke appear within a Lifetime type movie depicting Donny’s story. The casting stroke of genius, however, comes with casting Susan Sarandon and her real-life daughter, Eva Amurri Martino, as Donny’s teacher in present day and 1984, respectively.
Clever casting and a strong supporting cast can’t save the film from its Achilles heel, which also happens to be one of the biggest draws for the audience. Sandler just isn’t right for the film. His bad Boston accent and over the top theatrics keep taking the film into a different direction from the way everyone else in it is heading, as if attempting to make it more like one of his trademark comedies.
In theory, playing a man-child who has never grown up should fit the former "SNL" star like a glove, considering his resume. But here his shtick feels tired, having used most of his tricks more effectively in other films. At 45, Sandler is actually too old to be playing the role - in more ways than one. Had he made the film a decade ago, perhaps he would have fared better. But as it stands he comes off looking almost as desperate as his character.
To say "That’s My Boy" is one of the better Adam Sandler movies in the last five years isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, nor is it due in any part to the actor himself. The rest of the cast deserves some sympathy for pulling more than their own weight only to be sabotaged by the comedian at every corner. His acting here is about as bad as Donny’s parenting skills. Needless to say, this isn’t a film to write home to your own beloved dad about seeing.