Adam Sandler isn’t trying to fool anyone. For that, at least, you have to respect the man. You don’t have to respect him for anything else, necessarily – like for his unapologetically crass sense of humor, or his willingness to pull on a bad wig and play his own twin sister in last year’s “Jack and Jill,” his previous ill-conceived, lazily written comedy.
But there’s something to be said in that, when you buy a ticket for a Sandler flick such as “Jack and Jill” or this week’s That’s My Boy, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Reliability, thy name is Sandler.
That goes double when that movie, as “That’s My Boy” is, is built entirely around a statutory rape joke – that old comedy chestnut — in which a 14-year-old boy impregnates his schoolteacher. (Cut to images of court bailiffs high-fiving during the teacher’s trial.) And it goes triple when that setup isn’t even the darkest, most twisted gag in the movie, which goes on to chronicle the attempts of that now-grown boy (Sandler) to reconcile with the now-grown son (Andy Samberg) that resulted from that hot-for-teacher union.
In other words, nobody has an excuse for being surprised by how low Sandler and company stoop in “That’s My Boy.” You might be shocked, perhaps, at just how far the envelope is pushed in what ends up being a sprawling, two-hour string of mostly random gags held together with doody jokes and bodily fluids. But you should by no means be surprised.
After all, this is who Adam Sandler is, and this is what he does. He isn’t afraid to trade any trace of cleverness for crudity, and he’ll be fearlessly tasteful while he does it. Or tastelessly fearless. Or something. And if that’s not enough, he’ll do it all while SHOUTING ALL OF HIS PROFANITY-LACED LINES IN AN EXAGGERATED BOSTON ACCENT.
(I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: wicked annoying – and a wicked waste of Sandler’s proven dramatic talents, which he flashes tantalizingly briefly in the film’s obligatory reconciliation scene.)
Where you can feel surprised is at the wealth of celebrities Sandler enlisted for the cameos that often are the best thing about “That’s My Boy.” Granted, it probably was easy to persuade Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges to clear their schedules and to lampoon themselves on screen. But Rex Ryan – the head coach of Sandler’s beloved New York Jets – is surprisingly game to play a Bill Belicheck-worshipping character who swoons over Tom Brady’s square, befuzzed jaw.
Even more unexpected are the brief appearances by James Caan and Susan Sarandon, two film legends whose presence suggests that Sandler – who sullied Al Pacino’s name last year by talking him into a co-starring role in the embarrassing “Jack and Jill” – isn’t done ruining old Hollywood just yet. I can’t wait to see what he gets Ernest Borgnine and Lauren Bacall to do next summer.
Of course, the only reason for “That’s My Boy” to exist is to make people laugh, and it does that from time to time, even if they’re laughing in spite of themselves. Mostly, though, it will likely make you shake your head and wonder why this movie, based on a script that uses pee-pee jokes and overweight strippers to cover up its deeply rooted hackiness, was made in the first place – and why it doesn’t end 30 minutes earlier.
What you can count on is that some guy three rows behind you is going to be laughing far louder than he should be — and it’s he who will ensure that this movie, like all Sandler movies, reliably and inexplicably makes a mint at the box office anyway.
And that we’ll get another one like it by next year.
Sigh. Maybe reliability isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.