It's hard to pick an essential moment from the collection of penis jokes, poop jokes, fart jokes and incest gags that so generously festoon That's My Boy, the new Adam Sandler comedy, but it may be the part where Sandler -- playing Donny Berger, a trashy drunk who was famous in junior high school for having an affair with his buxom math teacher -- is lying in bed and masturbating to a photograph of an old woman. The next morning, he is surrounded by a pile of tissues when the old woman in question comes into the room and tries to throw them away. She can't, though, because they stick to her fingers.
Now I like to think I enjoy penis jokes, poop jokes, fart jokes and so on as much as the next fellow, but whether it's Adam Sandler or Noel Coward, one looks for some signs of art in the setup, or at least a sense of astonishment in the outrage. Funny as they are, poopy pants still need a sense of timing, or at least something beyond the raucous and relentless tawdriness of That's My Boy.
But that's just me. A preview audience this week laughed non-stop. That's My Boy apparently hits the spot, and if you're dying for a montage in which Sandler, Andy Samberg and Vanilla Ice run amok through a city, interrupt a fat couple having sex in their car, and then urinate at length against the side of a restaurant, this is your one-stop laughter centre.
The fun starts in the opening sequence where the young Donny -- a 13-year-old stud -- comes on to his sexy teacher and has his advances reciprocated. That's My Boy casts aside notions of pedophilia, apparently on the basis that it's a teenage boy's dream and therefore funny: this is a movie that not only dares to be incorrect, it dares to be wrong as well.
Donny grows up to be Sandler, a childish wreck who speaks with a "funny" Boston accent that sounds like what would happen if Good Will Hunting mated with Jerry Lewis. Donny and the teacher had a son whom he named Han Solo, but the boy has changed his name to Todd (Samberg as straight man) and become a successful stockbroker. Now he's about to marry the beautiful Jamie (Leighton Meester) and is telling everyone -- understandably -- that his parents are dead.
But grown-up Donny needs money, so he crashes the party, showing up at the Cape Cod home of Todd's rich boss and being immediately welcomed -- despite his slovenly dress, drunken manners and honking speech -- as a breath of fresh air. Everyone buys his story of being Todd's best friend, the guy who saved his life once when Todd went onto a train track to salvage a wayward burrito. Donny is the hit of the party, a development that Sandler often uses in his films, where he portrays himself as not only a refreshing corrective to the stuffy phoniness of high society but also as something of a stud who lands in many a hot tub with many a hot babe in a bikini, giggling at his very nearness.
Director Sean Anders choreographs this train wreck with a grating disregard for pace and an infuriating sentimentality that requires everyone to learn lessons about the true meaning of parenthood, and just in time for Father's Day, too. Whatever it is that Donny is supposed to be -- abused child, wasted man, idiotic sex symbol, alcoholic, wise adviser in the ways of women -- is folded into the general raunchiness of Sandler's mugging and the desperate pool of bodily fluids that form its gross-out tone.
That's our boy all right, and you can have him.
-- Postmedia News
Selected excerpts from reviews of That's My Boy:
Sandler has made worse movies, but never one as grotesque as this.
-- Roger Moore, McClatchy Tribune News Service
In short, we get Sandler, doing what he always does, with whatever edge he once had continuing to erode as he ages and looks sillier at what he's doing.
-- David Germain, Associated Press
That's My Boy lazily exists in a fantasyland of Adam Sandler's perpetual adolescence, even as it generates some moderate comic friction from Sandler and Andy Samberg's testy back-and-forth.
-- Ed Gonzalez, Slant magazine
Semen joke. Fat joke. Goofy voice. Blah.
-- Matt Pais, RedEye
At least give That's My Boy credit for fully earning its R rating. The film represents the horny, stoned, drunk id lurking behind the freshly scrubbed shenanigans of the Happy Madison brand.
-- Nathan Rabin, AV Club
When your mouth is not making noises similar to laughter, it will be dragging along the theatre floor in stunned disbelief.
-- Bill Gibron, PopMatters
Funny is some spots, idiotic in others and a combination of both during its moments of raunchy insanity, That's My Boy is a suitably moronic entry into the canon of Adam Sandler's man-child comedies.
-- Matthew Pejkovic, Matt's Movie Reviews
Compiled by Shane Minkin
That's My Boy
Starring Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester
Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne
One star out of 5