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Adam Sandler portrays a former reality TV star while Andy Samberg plays his son in the comedy directed by Sean Anders.
By now a well-recognized brand unto themselves, Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison production company represent a firmly entrenched comedy formula that can claim a global fan base prepared to follow wherever the laughs may lead.
With a bucketful of wedding-related stunts to pull in the date crowd, the guffaw-to-gag percentage is quite respectable, even though there’s nothing here that hasn’t been tried many times over. Resistance is futile, however, and will hardly prevent the middling That’s My Boy from opening to brisk business, most likely in the midrange of recent Sandler releases.
Donny Berger (Sandler) is a burned-out former reality TV star with no job and basically no family, at least no one wants to stand by him. Now well into his 40s, he’s infamous for having slept with his eighth-grade teacher (currently serving a 30-year sentence in the Massachusetts penal system), fathering a son with her while still a teen and leveraging his notoriety to launch a lucrative TV show and series of celebrity endorsements. But he’s pissed it all away and dodged paying taxes in the process – now he has a $43,000 IRS bill that will land him in jail if he can’t quickly raise the cash to pay it off.
He also has neglected his son Todd (Andy Samberg), who moved away as soon as he turned 18 and hasn’t spoken with his epically incompetent dad ever since. Despite his horrendous childhood and a plentiful of neuroses, Todd – whose birth name is Han Solo Berger – is now a rich and successful hedge fund manager who’s going to marry the woman of his dreams. The last thing he expects is for his estranged father to show up, which Donny does in classic wedding-crasher style after devising an unsavory scheme to settle his tax debt.
Mortified and about to see the lie he’s told everyone about his deceased parents exposed, Todd introduces Dad to fiancée Jamie (Leighton Meester) and her family as his best friend. Improbably, Donny completely charms the other wedding guests and is shortly getting along with everyone but for his son, even after people recognize him as the notorious TV personality with an unreasonable addiction to cheap beer.
Donny’s determined to see his son through an increasingly bumpy wedding weekend, however, as Todd is confronted by the hostility of Jamie’s Marine brother Chad (Milo Ventimiglia), a pugnacious priest (James Caan) and a series of mishaps building up to some serious father and son bonding over Todd’s calamitous bachelor-party night out. Todd’s quandary over forgiving Donny’s past and current transgressions begins to pale in comparison to his mounting marriage woes, leaving the groom with the unenviable choice between a parent he’s tried to avoid and a bride he soon might want to escape.
This being an Adam Sandler comedy, crude humor predominates at the expense of inherently unique situations or characters, with a by-now familiar strain of sentimentality emerging in later reels. Director Sean Anders along with screenwriter David Caspe follow the game rules close enough, but the film is overburdened with incidents that turn out to be only mildly entertaining. Anders’ background as an R-rated comedy writer could have served him better with shepherding the disparate cast and animating the pacing, but instead the outcome is a bloated runtime that nearly tips two hours.
In full-on man-child mode, Sandler takes on a role of a stereotypical Northeastern white-trash man known due to his exaggerated regional accent, endless substance abuse, profanity-dominated speech and fixation on sex. It’s nothing new for Sandler, who inhabits Donny’s low-life personality like an alter ego, alternately mugging and emoting with predictable charm.
Every buddy film calls for a straight man, but Samberg is rather more rigid than the role needs, hardly modulating his performance enough to generate true hilarity. Samberg and Sandler’s shared Saturday Night Live DNA barely registers, and their interactions lack much of the zaniness of the TV series. Meester remains relegated to a loosely functional role that’s crucial but hardly inspired. Deft casting that includes supporting actors Tony Orlando as Todd’s slimy boss, Vanilla Ice as Donny’s best bud and a sexy Susan Sarandon in a brief cameo as Donny’s incarcerated teacher helps to enliven the overall mood.
Serviceable lensing by DP Brandon Trost is ruined by some poorly executed special effects. Nonetheless, a soundtrack ruled by hairband rockers involving Van Halen, Kiss, Foreigner and Def Leppard brings tons of tuneful distraction throughout.