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.