Review in a Hurry: With a screenplay by Happy Endings‘ David Caspe, a return to hard-R raunch and costars like Andy Samberg and Vanilla Ice, Adam Sandler just might have made the funniest movie of his career: a dysfunctional father-son comedy that also rather astutely comments on the public’s perception of Sandler himself.
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The Bigger Picture: When there comes a point in a movie where Vanilla Ice is driving to the rescue as a Meat Loaf song from Bat out of Hell II plays on the soundtrack, you’re either gonna be with it or you’re not. If not, begone with you! But if you recognize the awesome, Sandler’s latest grabs you by the funny bone.
Sandler plays Donny, a washed-up tabloid celebrity from the ’80s whose claim to fame is that he knocked up his teacher while still a minor. Now in massive debt and forced to come up with tens of thousands to pay the IRS, he looks up his son (Samberg) who is about to get both married and promoted. The boy who used to be called Han Solo has changed his name to Todd, and told everybody his parents are dead, so when Donny shows up on the doorstep of the rich in-laws to be, he pretends instead to be a best friend from Todd’s past. What he doesn’t tell anybody is that he’s hoping to arrange a father-son reunion with mom at the women’s prison, where a tabloid TV show will film everything and pay Donny big bucks for the results.
For quite a while, the movie manages to walk an impressive line in terms of audience sympathies: Yes, Donny’s a narcissistic (albeit loving) drunk, and while Todd is overly neurotic and could use some loosening up, he deserves the success he has coming to him, even if some of the rich crowd are snooty jerks, and his new brother-in-law-to-be (Milo Ventimiglia) is a psychotic Marine. But when the bride (Leighton Meester) may have some flaws of her own, who’s to say which side of the class struggle is better? It’s a bit of a pity that the deck gets drastically stacked later on in order to settle things, but honestly, elaborate storylines aren’t what people are there to see.
The best thing about That’s My Boy, however, is the way Donny serves as an analogue for Sandler. Donny is constantly high-fived by “fans” who seem to be the douchiest of frat-boy types, even as much of the rest of society finds him irritating and wonders why anyone would reward such a character with fame. And as Donny’s journey progresses, it feels like Sandler is saying to the audience that he gets it, he knows he’s perceived as that annoying guy…but he’s determined to win you over anyway, even as he refuses to promise not to be obnoxious all over again.
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There’s that, and the fact that it’s plain and simply hilarious. Some of the familiar Sandler tropes are here: kids being inappropriately obscene, old people behaving like college kids, bathroom humor, Nick Swardson. Thankfully, there are also a few really inspired physical bits, including a scene where Donny and Vanilla Ice (who, incidentally, plays himself and is a major character in the movie) are trying to run and share a Walkman at the same time.
Humor is, of course, relative, and if you don’t catch the reference when Donny asks Ice if he still has the 5.0, this may not be the movie for you.
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The 180—a Second Opinion: Though this is a movie aimed primarily at guys, one can’t help but notice that all the female characters are literally just sex objects, defined entirely by what they do with their naughty bits. It wouldn’t have hurt to develop some of them a bit more.
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