I think it’s fair to say that Adam Sandler has always been a love him or hate him performer. If you are under 18 chances are he is your comedic hero, but anyone who was there the first time when Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison first became minor VHS hits in the UK has likely grown beyond his brand of humour.
When he attempts seriousness like in Punch Drunk Love or Funny People the results are usually worth watching but we also have to suffer through the likes of Jack and Jill, Grown Ups and Just Go With It to get one of these better films once every five years or so.
Sandler’s recent films have pretty much been repeating the same shtick he mastered in films like Big Daddy or the rom-com perfected in The Wedding Singer but he has a habit of bringing along his mates Rob Schneider, Kevin James or David Spade who are considerably less talented. For That’s My Boy he has ditched his comedic troupe and instead hooked up with younger Saturday Night Live alumni Andy Samberg. Although it doesn’t do anything greatly different, That’s My Boy is much more of a bad taste,adult and raucous affair and I’m not ashamed to say I laughed….a lot.
Starting with a rather worrying scene of high school kid Donnie Berger fantasising about his older teacher only for her to act on his fantasies, we see that her subsequent charge for statutory rape whilst pregnant leads to Donny becoming a minor celebrity during the late 80s up there with the Corey’s. Fast forward to present day and Donny is washed up and broke and facing jail due to tax evasion. His grown up son who he named Han Solo and who renamed himself Todd wants nothing to do with him and is independently wealthy and about to get married. Donny hatches a plan to get paid for a reality TV show where he will get Todd to the women’s prison where his mother is incarcerated for a reunion. This involves Donny crashing the wedding plans posing as Todd’s best friend and re-bonding with his estranged son who is less popular with his in-laws than Donny turns out to be. Apart from the statutory rape charge, alcoholism, masturbation, incest, multiple assaults and drunken rampages all get a look in and I laughed at all of it.
It’s not sophisticated it’s not subtle and it’s not clever but That’s My Boy feels like Sandler is at least trying again and is giving something of a performance without being Waterboy levels of irritating. Written by David Caspe, the screenplay hits most of the comedy high points in quick succession with rarely a moment to recover from the last belly laugh. Although it feels very wrong to laugh at some of the bad taste -PC jokes that the film covers, rarely does a joke or line of dialogue fall flat. The way that the relationship between father and son develops is touching without ever feeling mawkish or overly sentimental. It may not move you the way it could have because of the overall silliness but its well-judged and not the films main drive. Along with amusing cameos from James Caan, Susan Sarandon and Vanilla Ice playing himself most memorably of all, That’s My Boy feels like good value for money.
Comedy is a difficult thing to review because everyone’s sense of humour is different. One man’s Little Miss Sunshine is another man’s Scary Movie and so on. All I know is that it’s definitely too long but I found That’s My Boy to be very funny and a step up from Sandler’s usual comedic output. Whether you will or not is down to you and your own brand of humour or tolerance for the actor.