By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune –
Even with 87.5 years to go, the 21st century may never see a stupider comedy than “That’s My Boy.” But let’s be positive, and express it as a wish for the film-going masses: May this century never see a stupider comedy.
After squishing around in such dubious PG-13-rated hits as “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Grown Ups” and “Just Go With It,” Adam Sandler’s latest effort swings for the fences of hard-R-rated raunch, just past the outfield of rancid. Deploying a Boston dialect that makes one long for the voice he came up with for the distaff half of “Jack and Jill,” Sandler plays a party-hardy punk who, at age 13, fathered a child with his sex toy of a teacher. This produces a son who grows up to be a neurotic, insecure mess portrayed by Andy Samberg (who quit “Saturday Night Live” for this?).
Dad re-enters son’s life for monetary reasons: If Donny (Sandler) can’t come up with $43,000 fast, he’s off to prison for tax evasion. “That’s My Boy” sends Donny crashing headlong into his estranged son Todd’s life of wealth, privilege and good taste waiting to be exploded, just as Samberg’s character is about to marry the wrong woman.
The jokes that don’t target obese people, Asian Americans and other figures of amusement involve Sandler braying, or peeing, or masturbating, or milking the sort of pathos (Donny yearns for acceptance) that Sandler’s ardent fans seem to like in their Sandler movies. Working from a script by David Caspe, fledgling director Sean Anders (who co-wrote the far more buoyant “Hot Tub Time Machine”) displays a barely functioning knowledge of how to set up, film and cut a sight gag. Medium shots and close-ups do not match. The camera’s never in the right place. For example: If you’re going to show a hefty stripper eating sausage and eggs while dangling upside down from her pole, it needs to be cleverer than the way it’s shown here. Otherwise it’s just depressing.
The crowd at the preview screening of “That’s My Boy” was unusually vocal, with cries of “Nooo!” and mutterings of “Wow” at each new gross-out attempt. What I didn’t hear was much actual laughter. More so than “Rock of Ages,” even, “That’s My Boy” positions itself as an “I Love the ‘80s” special, with supporting roles taken by Vanilla Ice, Tony Orlando and others. The Sandler character is meant to be enjoyed for his pomposity-deflating boorishness, admired for his skill with the babes, pitied for his attempts at father/ son reconciliation. So what do you do if you find yourself hoping the main character will leave his own movie five minutes in?
“I need a couple hours to fix this,” Samberg cries at one point. Perilously close to two hours in length itself, “That’s My Boy” leaves the world a coarser, meaner, more arrogant place than its makers found it. Bring back “Jack and Jill.”
THAT’S MY BOY
Cast: Adam Sandler (Donny); Andy Samberg (Todd); James Caan (Father McNally); Leighton Meester (Jamie).
Directed by John Morris and Sean Anders; written by David Caspe, David Wain and Ken Marino, produced by Sandler, Allen Covert, Heather Parry and Jack Giarraputo. A Columbia Pictures release.
MPAA rating: R (for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use).
Running time: 1:56.