If Judge Steve Power were named after a Star Wars character, it would be Chewie.
The story of a child…and his son.
It's been quite a while since Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer) made a name for himself, both through his unhinged and unpredictable performances on Saturday Night Live, and memorable comedies like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. His mid-90s output practically re-invented the blueprint for Hollywood comedy features, and spawned a host of imitators. In the last decade or so Sandler has shown a desire to branch out with films like Reign Over Me and Funny People, and he's earned more than a little positive press for his attempts. His comedies however, have seen a steady decline in quality, and much worse, interest. Enter That's My Boy, a film touted as a return to Sandler's raunchy R-rated glory days, and no expense spared. Can we call it a comeback?
Facts of the Case
Former media sensation Donny (Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me) is having a few issues with the IRS. It turns out all the mad cash he'd earned in his time in the media spotlight, the result of a turgid love affair with one of his high school teachers, is long gone, and the taxman wants his cut. A sleazy reality show producer promises Donny big bucks if he can reunite with his jailbird sweetheart and their illegitimate offspring, Todd (Andy Samberg, Friends With Benefits). Maybe Donny can show the uptight Todd a little something about living life, and maybe Todd just might be able teach Donny a thing or two about being a grownup. There's also a wedding, sex, barf, the always easy on the eyes Leighton Meester (Monte Carlo) and enough gross out-debauchery to remind us that we're watching an R-rated comedy and not a drama.
As much as Adam Sandler tries to capture the essence of what made him so damned popular in the '90s, here he feels like he's past his expiration date. The script is a hodgepodge of set pieces that pretty much universally fall into that "shock and awe" trap that so many mainstream 21st century comedies have fallen into. The raunch factor is more than off the charts, playing gross out and sex gags for all their worth, only without any rhyme, reason, or underlying cleverness.
The performances don't help in endearing That's My Boy either; It's not that Sandler is completely terrible here, he's just so obviously reaching, and he just isn't the same guy he was in his early days. It's great that he doesn't appear to be bored like he did in mid-period efforts like Little Nicky or The Waterboy, but an aged Sandler pulling this shtick just doesn't work like it once did.
Even more wasted is the supporting cast, particularly Andy Samberg. Samberg's obtuse, deadpan style, while not particularly endearing to this author most of the time, is all but absent here. Andy is relegated to straight man status, and his character arc is formulaic and utterly devoid of life. He's terrible. The rest of the actors nail the emotional beats as they should, but they certainly don't try all that hard to sell their roles. They're "stock comedy cast" in every way, shape, and form.
The extra features are promotional fluff and ridiculously vulgar b-rolls that neither contribute anything worthwhile nor manage to entertain at all. You're better off just staying clear of the special features menu altogether.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If nothing else, Sony has managed to put together a typically excellent disc for one of their recent titles. The image quality is sharp and clear, with a nice warm color palette and no signs of authoring issues. The sound is what you'd expect from the genre; clear dialogue and a bit of punch when the soundtrack kicks in. From a technical standpoint, there are no complaints.
Adam Sandler old schoolers will welcome the return of Sandler's more vulgar, hard-R image with That's My Boy, a movie that feels designed to appeal the most diehard of Madison/Gilmore fans. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the flick features Andy Samberg at his dullest, and a boring "by the numbers" plot that's little more than a pale shadow of the older Sandler films that it emulates. It's perfectly disposable and ultimately a forgettable effort. Sony's disc is pretty awesome though.
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