Sunday, July 1, 2012
Adam Sandler can turn anything into a joke. Whether you laugh at the former “Saturday Night Live” comic’s degenerate sense of humor is an entirely different matter. Typically, juvenile delinquent fantasies fuel Sandler’s gross out antics. “Sex Drive” director Sean Anders and “Happy Endings” television series scribe David Caspe have ramped up Sandler’s impudent humor far beyond anything the lowbrow comedian has attempted. “That’s My Boy” (*** out of ****) casts Sandler as a shrill, low-life, irresponsible, adult-adolescent who neglected to mature. Imagine the protagonists of either “Billy Madison” or “The Waterboy” as unrepentant hemorrhoids, and you’ll have a good idea what to expect from “That’s My Boy.” Actually, from premise to performance, “That’s My Boy” qualifies as Sandler at his raunchiest. At the same time, “That’s My Boy” may challenge even the staunchest Sandler’s fans. Mind you, we’re not talking the caliber of crude and rude that Sasha Baron Cohen doled out in either “Borat” or “Bruno.” Nothing aberrant like the thoroughly unwholesome “Hangover 2,” however, happens in “That’s My Boy.” Nevertheless, Sandler hasn’t made anything this tastelessly hilarious since either “Big Daddy” or “Little Nicky.”
Most Sandler characters, such as Billy Madison, Robert 'Bobby' Boucher Jr., from “The Waterboy,” Happy Gilmore, and Sonny Koufax in “Big Daddy,” emerge as saints compared with Donny Berger. Before his second-to-last movie, Sandler had shown signs of mellowing. He made movies about middle-aged guys and their families, such as “Grown Ups” and “Just Go with It.” Earlier, he appeared in two genuinely memorable films: “Funny People” and “Punch-Drunk Love.” Admittedly, Sandler’s last movie “Jack and Jill” dredged the bottom of the barrel. “Jack and Jill” amounted to a cretinous comedy about identical twin siblings. Sandler dressed up in drag when he wasn’t playing it straight. Nonetheless, he played a middle-aged father with a middle of the road family. Happily, no matter how egregiously awful “That’s My Boy” is, “That’s My Boy” is still ten times better than “Jack and Jill.”
The premise of “That’s My Boy” is audacious. This lightweight sex abuse comedy unfolds in the Boston suburb of Somerville in 1984. Thirteen year old Donny Berger (Justin Weaver) lands in detention. He made the mistake of asking his ultra-hot looking, nymphomaniac math teacher, Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino of “The Banger Sisters”), out for a date in front of his two friends. What he encounters in detention is nothing like “The Breakfast Club.” Donny’s teacher takes him into a backroom and rapes him without a qualm. Indeed, she teachers him how to satisfy her sexual urges. Of course, “That’s My Boy” refrains from depicting sexual relations between an older woman and an underage child. Later, during a middle-school function in the auditorium, Donny and his naked teacher are caught in the act on stage. She flees in humiliation with a flag wrapped around her body, while Donny enjoys a standing ovation from both students and faculty. Never has the double standard in sexual relations been more skewered. A sign in the auditorium heralds Donny’s makeover from nobody to somebody: "Some have greatness thrust upon them." Never has statutory rape been celebrated in such a cynical manner. Donny emerges as a tabloid celebrity, while his teacher winds up pulling a 30 year stretch in the Massachusetts Women’s Prison. Worse, not only has Donny gotten Miss McGarricle pregnant with a son, but also McGarricle admits no shame in their liaison.
For the record, director Sean Anders, scenarist David Caspe, and Sandler have drawn their comedy from the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau case in 1997. Mary Kay was a married school teacher who seduced one of her 13-year-old students, Vili Fualaau, in Des Moines, Washington. Eventually, she had two daughters from their illicit romance. Difficult as it is to fathom, the people who produced “That’s My Boy” have displayed a modicum of discretion in their depiction of Mary Kay and Vili’s notorious romance. In real life, Vili claims he never felt like he was a victim of sex abuse. Later, after Mary Kay left prison, Vili married her and wrote a book about their shenanigans. Some of this transpires in “That’s My Boy.” Similarly, Donny and his teacher have little boy, but Donny turns out to be the worst parent imaginable.
In an expository dialogue scene between Donny (Adam Sandler) and his grown-up son Todd (Adam Samberg of “Hot Rod”), we learn about Donny’s shortcomings as a daddy. Initially, Donny named his son Han Solo after Harrison Ford’s “Star Wars” hero. Not only does Todd scold his father for this ridiculous moniker, but also for pandering to his sweet t00th so he packed on hundreds of pounds and contracted diabetes. Donny turned his 8-year old son into an obese urchin and exploited him as a designated driver when he was too drunk to drive. Once he was old enough to disown his dad, Todd changed his name, claimed his parents had died in an explosion, and became a profitable businessman as a hedge fund manager. Todd is poised to marry his sweetheart, a wealthy heiress, Jamie (Leighton Meester of “Date Night”), and live happily ever after. Forty-year old Donny learns about his son’s wedding in Cape Cod and crashes it. Things haven’t been too good for Donny. The I.R.S demands $43-thousand for delinquent taxes or they will put him in prison. A reality TV show producer promises Donny the dough if he can persuade Todd to appear alongside him on camera at the woman’s prison where his mom is incarcerated.
“That’s My Boy” concerns reconciliation as much as dysfunctional families. Donny ranks as Adam Sandler’s least sympathetic, most outrageous, but best role to date. At times, he looks like a cross-between of Al Pacino and Paul McCartney in 1980s garb. The running joke is everybody adores Donny except Todd. Donny struggles for the better part of “That’s My Boy” to win back Todd’s love and respect. Most of the action takes place at Cape Cod where Todd’s future boss, financial guru Steve Spirou (Tony Orlando), has planned their wedding. About a third of the action occurs in a strip joint that serves breakfast. Tony Orlando is not the only leftover from the 1980s. White rapper Vanilla Ice appears in an extended cameo as one of Donny’s friends, while James Caan wears the collar as a pugnacious man of the cloth. This politically incorrect, 116-minute farce received an R-rating for pervasive vulgarity, sexual humor, nudity, drug use, and some comic violence. Most of “That’s My Boy” will either make you grimace in disbelief or laugh without restraint.