That's My Boy
relevance has ebbed ever since his fierce performance in “Punch-Drunk
Love” nearly ten years ago. The film has seemingly come to haunt him in
more ways than one as all of his post-PDL efforts, in their desperation
and confusion, have felt punch-drunk themselves.
Last year was undoubtedly his worst one yet as his two films “Bucky
Larson: Born to Be a Star” (which he co-wrote and produced) and “Jack
and Jill” earned him a nomination for worst screenplay and an award for
worst actor respectively at the Razzies. To anyone else but Sandler,
this might have bruised the ego, however, the same stubborn persistence
that defines his off-colour humour also keeps him churning out new
outrageous comedies and, ultimately, takes us straight to the heart of
his polarising charm.
Now he returns with “That’s My Boy”, a film that reveals whether he has
anything left to contribute. Sandler’s new persona is Donny Berger, a
broke, washed-up celebrity who became an overnight sensation, as a teen,
when he impregnated his high school teacher, Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri).
Berger faces a three-year stint in prison unless he can honour his tax
debts within the week.
After calling on an old connection, he is given the opportunity to earn
the sum if he reunites with the incarcerated McGarricle and their
estranged son, Hans Solo Berger (Andy Samberg), on live television. The
catch is that Hans has changed his name, become a prodigious hedge fund
manager and has sought to erase his family ties. Nevertheless, Donny
crashes at Hans’ house days before his upcoming wedding with the
beautiful Jamie (Leighton Meester) and in time all hell breaks loose.
“That’s My Boy” imbibes the same spirit of familial dysfunction that
inhabited Robert Altman’s cathartic 1978 film, “A Wedding”, except that
it is made in the image of a modern-day Adam Sandler farce. Anders, like
Altman, illuminates the droll aspects within virtually every single
family member and exposes the shocking secrets that a few of them keep,
but at the same time, he retains his own voice by portraying these
subjects with warm charm instead of studied acidity.
The film’s comedy is principally character-based. Hans Solo, or Todd
Peterson, is a clean-cut overachiever whose luxurious lifestyle
whitewashes a traumatic past filled with insecurity and disappointment.
On Jamie’s side, there’s the sexually repressed mother, Helen (Meagen
Fay), the macho soldier brother, Chad (Milo Ventimiglia) and the former
swimsuit model grandma, Delores (Peggy Stewart).
In spite of its promise, the film’s depictions of familial chaos are
rarely funny due to its lack of depth, cohesion and authenticity. The
critical problem is that Anders sells his characters out for cheap,
empty snickers instead of developing his characters, planting bombs
within their relationships and detonating them at opportune moments.
The film’s only saving grace is Sandler himself, as he glues the story
together. The gags he features in are hit-and-miss but they are
invariably high in shock value. The film tests the audience’s resolve
with crude jokes on sex, semen, excrement, incest and illegal immigrants
but its playful tone fortunately tempers the awkwardness.
Video, Audio & Special Features
As with all Universal/Sony Picture
releases, you can expect decent video and audio quality. Images are
sharp and vibrant plus audio supports DTS-HD. Special features include a
gag reel, deleted scenes (including the hot tub scene) and lots of
Blu-ray exclusives that include Who are all these people, Celebrity
Cameos, Greetings from Cape Cod, Classy Rick's Bacon Leggs & Go Inside
the Strip Club to see Champale's Moves on the Pole. With the special
features, there's plenty more Adam Sandler love to be found...
especially the last one regarding Champale!
In the end, “That’s My
Boy” is a decent, charming effort that proves that Sandler has a few
more tricks up his sleeve even if his lustre has almost certainly faded.