That’s My Boy

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester
Directed by: Sean Anders (“Sex Drive”)
Written by: David Caspe (debut)

A good chunk of 2009’s “Funny People” seemed intent on shaming star Adam Sandler for filling the decade since the release of “The Wedding Singer” with terrible, terrible movies. From the pen of old friend Judd Apatow, Sandler’s character ended up a thinly-veiled version of the man himself: an insanely rich and popular actor who drifted away from his sharp stand-up comedy roots to headline juvenile box office hits. The fake movies that Apatow cooked up for “Funny People” were all eerily plausible Sandler movies from another dimension, with titles like “MerMan” and “My Best Friend is a Robot.” While this might have been a turning point in Sandler’s career – a public moment of reflection from a creatively-bankrupt mega-star – it instead seemed to have just been a brainstorming session. Sandler regressed immediately, following up with high concept garbage like “Just Go With It” and “Jack and Jill.”

There are glimmers of hope that part of the message got through, however, in Sandler’s “That’s My Boy.” Sandler plays Donny Berger, a 40-something Boston burnout coasting on the skeevy fame he acquired in his early teens from having sex with his insanely attractive math teacher Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri). When the inappropriate relationship results in a pregnancy, Donny is left to raise the child alone as an incredibly irresponsible teenager. Fast forward 27 years: Donny is broke and owes the IRS nearly $50,000 while his estranged son Todd (Andy Samberg) is preparing for his wedding to fiancé Jamie (Leighton Meester) and telling everyone his parents died in an horrific explosion. A desperate Donny makes a deal with sleazebag talk show host Randall Morgan (former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick): reunite Todd with his mother in prison on television and earn enough money to settle his debts and avoid prison himself. Donny throws himself into the wedding, sending the straight-laced Todd spiraling back into a troubled childhood he’s tried hard to forget.

“That’s My Boy” begins with director Sean Anders (of the underappreciated “Sex Drive”) merely filling the chair for longtime Sandler director Dennis Dugan, a duty which includes indulging Sandler’s seemingly random desire to play Berger with a wicked broad Boston accent and casting long-time Sandler associates Blake Clark and Nick Swardson in supporting roles (Rob Schnieder, though, is thankfully absent). The film lumbers through its over-long setup, with the student-teacher sexual relationship serving as nothing more than a somewhat realistic reason for someone as young as Sandler to have a son as old as Samberg. The present day scene-setting doesn’t fare much better, introducing the goofy wedding guests like ’70s singer Tony Orlando and a horny grandma that plays like a microwaved knock-off of the weirdo guests in “The Wedding Singer.” But when it’s time for the bachelor party, Anders cuts loose and lets straight man Samberg be led down a path of hilarious debauchery by Sandler and a scene-stealing Vanilla Ice, playing an exaggerated version of himself. The film embraces its R-rating, indulging in cursing and nudity while re-sharpening the fangs Sandler had seemingly dulled with years and years of PG-13 pabulum.

Is it stupid? Yes. Is it funny? Absolutely. And in 2012, that counts as a win for Adam Sandler.

30 Minutes or Less

August 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”)
Written by: Michael Diliberti (debut)

For most pizza delivery guys, a bad day might involve getting lost in a shady neighborhood, showing up late with an order, or getting stiffed on a tip. For underachieving pizza guy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a bad day is finding yourself with a bomb strapped to your chest as part of a half-cooked plot by two wannabe criminals. This premise sets the stage for “30 Minutes or Less,” a comedy that boasts more laughs than any other film this summer.

In order to hire a hitman to kill his overbearing Marine father and leave him with a huge inheritance, do-nothing slacker Dwayne (Danny McBride) and his friend Travis (Nick Swardson) devise a scheme to strap a bomb to a pizza delivery man and force him to rob a bank. After Nick grasps the situation he is in, he goes to the only person he can, his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) as they are forced to put aside their differences and try to get Nick out of the situation.

Eisenberg and Ansari display great chemistry as old high school buddies who constantly bounce jokes and insults off of each other. Eisenberg sheds the socially-awkward character we’ve come to know from many of his comedic performances and plays a confident regular guy, which is a welcome departure. However, a bigger revelation is the performance from Ansari, who is poised to become a comedic star on the big screen.  Best known for his work as a stand-up comedian and his role on TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” Ansari finally gets a major film role and takes full advantage of it.  He zips through a Rolodex of one-liners and ends up with one of the best joke-to-laugh ratios in a comedy this year. It is hard to even call his hilarious non-sequitors “throwaway lines” because even those elicit laughs. Watching these two forced to commit crimes with no clue of what they’re doing is a deep well and never wears out its welcome.

Although still funny in small doses, the weaker duo in the film is McBride and Swardson as faux criminals. McBride has proven to be an acquired taste with his usual routine of unleashing a barrage of improvised vulgarities with varying success. Swardson is a good, albeit small addition as the more tentative Travis, but it is clear that McBride is there for the comedy and Swardson is there to ground him.

This is the kind of comedy that isn’t exactly high concept or deeply meaningful. There’s drug and alcohol intake, crude and sometimes mean-spirited jokes, as well as plans that aren’t too well thought-out and bombs that are too cleverly rigged to be from a couple of know-nothing buffoons.

Despite its lack of depth, “30 Minutes or Less” succeeds where most of the summer comedies this year have failed: its gags are consistent from start to finish.  The one-liners from most of the characters are memorable and director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) gets a lot of mileage from the pithy dialogue at the expense of the situation. While “30 Minutes or Less” won’t set a new standard for the comedy genre, it’s a breezy 83-minute caper that’ll gives fans of R-rated material something to cheer about.