It’s no secret that Adam Sandler‘s resume is studded with films that the critical mass has turned firmly against – of his thirty most recognizable starring roles, only four have managed to ring in as “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, and his last run of films (including Just Go With It, Jack and Jill, Zookeeper, and Grown Ups) have signaled that Sandler the actor has no interest in continuing any of the thoughtful, nuanced work he turned in with stuff like Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People. If that’s how he wants to play, that’s just fine – Sandler’s career decisions are his own and good luck with them, but things have simply gone too far with his latest feature, the revolting, moronic, despicable, deeply unfunny, wildly offensive, and frankly disturbing That’s My Boy. Make your money how you want to, Sandler, but count me out of watching it – forever.
That’s My Boy lays its cards on the table within its first ten minutes – and, if you think that Sean Anders‘s film will somehow get more mature or even more palatable from Eva Amurri Martino‘s breathy public confession that she’d have sex with a child again and again, you’re wrong. The film will only get worse and more gross and more bizarre and more disgusting as each of its 114 ruthless minutes tick sllooooowlyyyy by. Strangely enough, That’s My Boy has a mildly interesting and somewhat modern story at its core – Sandler’s Donny Berger attained a measure of wealth and fame after he engaged in a sexual relationship with a teacher, which resulted in not only a child (that’s Samberg) but in his becoming some kind of folk hero. There’s some honesty at play here – obvious stuff about how men are lauded for sexual conquests but also commentary on how our society can make just about anyone famous for anything, no matter how worthless. That’s as intelligent as this will all get, however, and by a mile.
Of course, Donny was a terrible parent (how could he be otherwise), and after ruining Samberg’s (who was christened “Han Solo Berger” and has now taken on the WASPy “Todd Peterson”) childhood, the kid ran away, gussied himself up, and made a life for himself. When Donny discovers that the now-successful Todd is marrying into a rich family, he takes off for the Memorial Day weekend wedding in an attempt to lure Todd into a prison reunion with both of his parents, a televised event that would net a major windfall for the cash-strapped and tax-troubled stuck-in-his-glory-days idiot. Hijinks ensue! Or whatever Sandler, Anders, and screenwriter David Caspe take as hijinks, which really means an unamusing, laughless outing that also comes with some elements are just plain troubling.
That’s My Boy is, simply put, revolting. It’s so over-the-top revolting that, if it were all just a bit tighter, cleaner, and smarter, a case could be made that the film is actually a send-up of other Sandler films or some sort of black-as-night twisted comedy. Of course, it’s not tight or clean or smart, so That’s My Boy is just filthy for its own sake.
But, you may say, I am totally fine with sexual deviance of many colors and I also think that fat people and old people and non-white people are automatically hilarious and I don’t understand how anything can possibly be offensive to anyone ever, so tell me, is the movie also funny? Well, no. In addition to its fundamental rottenness, That’s My Boy relies on rote, played out gags and jokes that, even independent of the rest of the horror show that is this film, don’t stand a chance of earning genuine laughs. The film features such been-there-done-that bits as “these people are preppy, so here is a bunch of plaid,” “this stripper is overweight and also older so let us laugh at her,” “here is Adam Sandler jerking off to someone’s grandma – and she’s totally into it!,” “spit takes that lead to someone trying to dry someone else’s shirt and rubbing their boobs instead,” and “guy slides off hood of car.”
Of course, a film like That’s My Boy will inevitably spawn defenders, moviegoers who believe that it’s the sort of film that’s meant to be funny, mindless entertainment – that is, not the sort of film that should have a critical eye turned on it. To that, there’s but one response – That’s My Boy is not funny, mindless, or entertaining. It is, however, capable of serving a singular purpose – as a litmus test to determine if its viewers have not only a sense of actual humor but if they even possess a moral compass. Here’s a hint – if, for whatever reason, you decide to check out That’s My Boy (and may God have mercy on your soul if you do decide to subject yourself to such a thing) and you somehow make it to the film’s final twenty minutes and anyone around you laughs at the film’s big “reveal,” run. No, seriously, run. This twist is not only an affront to people with good taste, it’s so gross that it’s actually an affront to people with bad taste, and anyone who heartily laughs at it is a person to be feared and avoided.
The Upside: Vanilla Ice? As Vanilla Ice?
The Downside: Every. Single. Thing. Else.
On the Side: I don’t want to talk about this movie ever again.