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Father knows worst That's My Boy'

June 20, 2012
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Sandler's first foray into R-rated comedy falls flat

It has become common in critical circles to look down on the works of Adam Sandler. Sandler's man-child antics have lost their luster for film critics around the world; those who watch movies for a living have grown tired of Sandler's never-changing shtick. And with good reason with very rare exception, the films that Sandler and his Happy Madison production company have produced have been getting steadily worse over the past decade-plus.

But hey millions of people go out and shell out their hard-earned dollars to see this junk, so what do the critics know?

Sandler's latest offering is 'That's My Boy,' yet another example of Sandler taking a promising comedic concept and hammering into the ground under wave after wave of repetitive idiocy and poorly-acted cameos from Sandler's buddies.

Sandler plays Donny Berger, who in 1984 engaged in a sexual relationship with his teacher a relationship that resulted in a pregnancy. Following the sensational trial, Donny becomes a celebrity, hanging out with the rich and famous and selling his story for big money. However, his star eventually fades, leaving the adult Donny destitute and alone. Even his son abandons Donny just as soon as he is able.

In the present, it turns out that Donny hasn't been paying his taxes. According to his lawyer, if he can't come up with $43,000 by the end of the weekend, he's going to jail. Upon accidentally discovering his son's whereabouts by way of a wedding announcement, Donny goes to an old trash-TV buddy and gets an offer stage a reunion between Han Solo and his mother and get paid to the tune of $50,000.

Meanwhile, young Han Solo Berger has grown up to be 'Todd Peterson' (Andy Samberg, 'Friends with Benefits'), a weirdly awkward hedge fund manager who is engaged to marry the lovely Jamie (Leighton Meester, 'Monte Carlo'). He's off to the Cape to spend the weekend leading up to the wedding at the home of his boss Steve (Tony Orlando; yes that Tony Orlando).

Then Donny shows up.

Since Todd's embarrassment about his past led him to tell everyone his parents were dead, Donny becomes instead Todd's 'best friend.' Despite Todd's misgivings, Donny rapidly ingratiates himself to everyone and becomes a vital part of the proceedings. Donny attempts to make up for lost time with Todd, but as you might expect, some (supposedly) hilarious misunderstanding and obstacles rapidly appear.

Commence hijinks!

First of all, while this movie is no great shakes, it is a masterpiece compared to last year's Happy Madison double-decker crapfest of 'Just Go With It' and 'Jack and Jill.' That's not saying much, but still it's something. At the very least, it's an interesting premise. Of course, Sandler then proceeds to Sandler all over said premise, so it's a wash.

Much of the blame for this car crash lay at the feet of Sandler and Samberg. You expect it from Sandler he's spent that last 20 years cashing in on one-note characters but I was hoping for more from Samberg. Alas, he's clearly following Sandler's lead for better or worse mostly worse in creating a whiny weirdo that we have difficulty rooting for.

As with any Sandler film, the supporting cast is a bizarre mixture of A-listers, pop culture icons and Sandler's buddies. Meester is a stereotypically demanding fiance and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they pitched casting Tony Orlando; he's pretty good, actually, but it's still weird. Sportscaster Dan Patrick and New York Jets football coach Rex Ryan each have a couple of scenes as Donny's trash-TV pal and lawyer, respectively. James Caan has an awesome cameo as a priest.

And finally, we have to talk about Donny's best friend Vanilla Ice. And we're not talking about Vanilla Ice playing some dude; we are talking about Vanilla Ice playing a hyper-realized parody of himself. It's gimmicky, for sure, and yet it works. Maybe because we can all believe that Vanilla Ice really has been reduced to cooking chicken nuggets at the local food court.

'That's My Boy' is a terrible movie. Not as terrible as I was anticipating, but terrible nonetheless. There are some interesting moments, but they are few and far between. Unless you're an Adam Sandler completist or a Vanilla Ice die-hard, feel free to skip this one.

1 out of 5

Last modified on Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:42

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