That's My Boy
Director: Sean Anders.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Milo Ventimiglia, Vanilla Ice.
THE name "Adam Sandler" has become a byword for bad movies or an example for what is wrong with the Hollywood movie machine, and for good reason.
Surprisingly, his stocks remain high in the face of an almost overwhelming list of duds - the Razzie-sweeping Jack & Jill, the astoundingly unfunny Grown Ups, the painfully plotted Just Go With It... and these are just in the last two years.
This lowers your expectations to gutter-level. Maybe that's why That's My Boy isn't as bad as expected.
Don't get me wrong - it's a terrible movie - but it's occasionally funny in spite of itself. Sandler plays Donny Berger, another of his annoying man-children characters, whose claim to fame is he got his high school teacher pregnant while a student, resulting in her going to prison and he becoming an '80s talk-show circuit celebrity.
In the present day, Donny is washed-up, facing a jail-worthy tax debt, and estranged from his son Todd (Samberg), who is about to get married and be made a partner at a lucrative hedge fund company.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty facing That's My Boy is its opening. The morally questionable set-up of a teacher-student sexual relationship is played out so humourlessly it leaves a stale taste in the mouth long after the first act is over. Add to this a total lack of redeeming features in Donny during his introduction, and you've got a one-two punch that will have you reaching for the eject button.
Donny is the archetypal Sandler character - he's not an anti-hero, he's more of a silly-voiced "unhero" who's so unlikeable you just want to punch him in the face. These type of characters are Sandler's constant undoing. He mistakes annoying for funny, gives the audience no reason to barrack for his creations, and forgets that flawed characters probably shouldn't be all flaws - protagonists should have chinks in their armour, not a suit of armour made entirely of chinks. It's hard to feel sorry for Donny or care at all, but we're supposed to.
Sandler wants us to at least like him enough to laugh along, but this is near impossible for much of the film. By the time Donny is redeemed and learns his little life lesson (which is something along the lines of "it's okay to be a douche if you're a douche that loves your son and secretly has a heart of gold") we still don't care.
Endure the painful first half-hour and things get better. An extended stretch involving Todd's buck's party goes on too long but at least provides a few off-the-wall laughs and a quality Vanilla Ice cameo. And Sandler has a disturbing ability to make you laugh despite yourself.
But the opening and ending revolve around two initially unfunny and tasteless scenarios - student-teacher sex and another which we won't spoil - and the film has to work way too hard to win the audience back. To paraphrase Ricky Gervais, you can make jokes about any subject if you do it right, and this film eventually does get gags out of its wrongness, but it takes too long for that to happen.
That's My Boy is occasionally funny and works well in spurts, but it wrongfoots itself too often.
And as bad as it is, it's still not as terrible as Grown Ups.