Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy Movie Review of ‘That’s My Boy’ (2012)

Movie Review of ‘That’s My Boy’ (2012)

Adam Sandler used to be one of the most reliable funny-men in the business, but he has been stuck in a serious rut lately. After a string of awfulness culminating with 2011’s sign of the apocalypse Jack and Jill, the prospect of another Adam Sandler comedy is now about as desirable as a cracked rib. What a surprise, then, that 2012’s That’s My Boy is actually enjoyable. One would not call this a truly good film as most of the humour is juvenile and there are some unnecessary gross-out gags, but it’s an amusing film with plenty of highlights, which is frankly miraculous. It’s Sandler’s most consistently enjoyable effort since 50 First Dates back in 2004.

At the age of 12, Donny Berger (Sandler) made headlines and developed into a national icon when he had a sexual relationship with his teacher Ms. McGarricle (Martino), resulting in her falling pregnant and being sent to prison. Decades later, Donny is a fading star out of money, and he owes $43,000 to the IRS. If Donny doesn’t pay in a matter of days, he’ll be arrested. While down in the dumps, Donny learns that his estranged son Han Solo (Samberg) – now going by the name of Todd to avoid association with his dad – has become a successful businessman and is soon getting married. One of Donny’s TV friends promises to give him $50,000 if he convinces Todd to visit his mother in prison, and thus Donny crashes his son’s wedding party. With people convinced that Donny is just an old friend of Todd’s, father and son begin to bond.

David Caspe’s script is full of clichés (including a typical “lie plot” reminiscent of Just Go with It) and contains several generic narrative beats (including a break-up-to-make-up scenario). Furthermore, the characters are ripped straight from the Comedy 101 handbook – there’s the military badass, the leering boss, the horny grandma, the quirky friend, and so on. These stereotypes are too lazy for comfort. What’s surprising, though, is that Caspe’s treatment of this material is pretty dark. Armed with the freedom of an R-rating, That’s My Boy is much more fun than it would’ve been as a tame PG-13 comedy, and this helps keep your mind off the story’s formulaic nature. Plus, the ending is not entirely predictable, as it introduces a handful of twists and merrily destroys the lives of a few characters without blinking an eye. It renders the experience quite refreshing, though it probably won’t work for those who actually like fluffy paint-by-numbers Hollywood filmmaking.

Astonishingly, That’s My Boy was not directed by Sandler’s go-to guy Dennis Dugan – instead, the director is Sean Anders, who helmed the hilarious (and underrated) Sex Drive. It would seem that a new director has reinvigorated Sandler, as the directing here is not as lazy as films like Jack and Jill or Grown-Ups. Anders was an inspired choice – as exemplified in Sex Drive, he can handle vulgar R-rated comedic material as well as quieter character-driven moments. Not all of the jokes here are original, and pretty much none of them are witty, but they’re sold by Anders and co. with wonderful gusto and energy, without the bland flavour that Dugan always brings to the table. If R-rated humour appeals to you, That’s My Boy is Christmas – Anders permitted Sandler to let loose in a way he hasn’t done in years, turning a painfully clichéd father-son bonding tale into a hilariously crass slice of entertainment. Admittedly, some of the laughs are more uncomfortable than amusing (the horny grandmother is unnecessary, and at one stage Todd’s fiancé licks dried semen from her wedding dress…), and the humour is mostly infantile. Nevertheless, the laughs for the most part worked for this reviewer, though others are welcome to disagree due to the highly subjective nature of comedy.

A lot of people are destined to despise the voice that Adam Sandler espouses here. It’s a pretty big obstacle to overcome while enjoying the movie, as Sandler chose to use an over-the-top, ridiculous speech pattern that’s frankly grating most of the time. Still, the actor gets credit for at least trying to do something fresh, rather than leaning on his lazy shtick yet again. Meanwhile, Andy Samberg is charming in the role of straight man Todd/Han Solo, whose normality often amusingly clashes with Donny’s shameless idiocy. Surprisingly, the highlight is actually Vanilla Ice, who clearly had a ball sending himself up here. Also notable is Milo Ventimiglia, who’s unrecognisable as a buff military badass. Ripped to the teeth and adopting a thick accent, you would never guess that this is the same guy who played Rocky’s son in 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Beyond these actors, there are a handful of memorable supporting turns; Will Forte (MacGruber) is pretty funny as Todd’s uptight co-worker, and James Caan provides several laughs as a badass priest.

That’s My Boy is admittedly long in the tooth. For a comedy, a runtime nearing two hours seems superfluous, and the film’s flabby nature makes it look like a first cut awaiting further trimming. Still, this is a good fun movie with plenty of laughs that will appeal to its target audience. Average filmgoers will probably find the movie utterly horrifying, but the rest of us should recognise it as a fun-in-the-moment guilty pleasure.

6.5/10

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