To pay off some overdue taxes, a broke Donny (Adam Sandler, right) tries to persuade his son Todd (Andy Samberg) and Todd’s mom to sign on for a reality TV special in “That’s My Boy.”
‘That’s My Boy’ 1/2★
Donny Adam Sandler
Todd Andy Samberg
Jamie Leighton Meester
Phil Will Forte
Old Mary Susan Sarandon
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Sean Anders. Written by David Caspe. Running time: 114 minutes. Rated R (for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use). Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:14AM
Let’s not pretend there isn’t something of a snickering double standard when it comes to all those news stories of teachers preying on adolescent and teenage students.
If a 30-year-old male teacher is convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student, he is rightfully pilloried as the worst of the worst. But if the teacher is a female and the victim is a boy, there are websites that will comment on the relative “hotness” of the accused, and more than a few guys will say, “That’s a crime? I should have been so lucky when I was a freshman.” (These same men probably wouldn’t think it was so hot if their young sons were victimized.)
Leave it to Adam Sandler to use this premise as the launching point for “That’s My Boy,” an ugly-looking, monumentally tasteless, dreadfully unfunny and mean-spirited non-comedy that alternates between cringe-inducing set pieces and long moments of sheer dullness.
It’s the perfect movie to avoid this Father’s Day weekend.
In the prologue, we see how the jerky but relatively naive little Donny hits on his apparently insane teacher, who initiates a sexual relationship with him and is impregnated. The teacher is sentenced to 30 years in prison — but the judge has been sentenced to appear in an unbelievably stupid movie, so she also declares that once Donny turns 18, he will have custody of his son.
Cut to present day. In the twisted worldview of “That’s My Boy,” Donny has enjoyed years of adulation, fame and fortune by virtue of having knocked up his teacher — but he squandered it all, and now he’s a pathetic, broke, alcoholic loser on the verge of going to prison, unless he can raise the money to pay overdue taxes. Donny’s best hope for a quick influx of cash is to reunite with his now estranged son and the boy’s still-imprisoned mother for a reality TV special.
Oh. That old set-up.
Wearing a horrible wig and employing one of his creepier man-child voices, Sandler plays the grown-up Donny as a perverted lout who inexplicably charms just about everyone except his son Todd (played by the likable and talented Andy Samberg), a successful but neurotic and timid financial whiz who’s about to get married to the lovely but perhaps not entirely pure and honest Jamie (Leighton Meester). Will Todd acknowledge and accept Donny as his father? Will Donny sell out his son? Is Jamie perfect marriage material, or a triple-scheming bitch on wheels? I’m not sure even the screenwriters care about these issues.
“That’s My Boy” is filled with stunt casting such as New York Jets coach Rex Ryan as a cut-rate lawyer who worships the Patriots, sportscaster Dan Patrick as a Springer-esque talk-show host, Tony Orlando as a financial boss with voracious appetites, James Caan as a boxer turned priest with a terrible Irish accent, and Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges playing (and gamely mocking) themselves. They’re all mired in a story that confuses gross-out visual gags and shock-value revelations for genuine comedy.
Yes, the relentless vulgarity yields a chuckle or two. At the most. But as someone who has laughed hard at some of Sandler’s work and has always embraced tasteless comedy as long as it’s smart and has a point, I was just as offended by the lack of truly funny moments in “That’s My Boy” as I was by the tastelessness of it all.
To his credit, Sandler never shies away from humiliating himself on camera — but he inevitably tries to rescue his characters with shameless sentimentality that would make even Jerry Lewis cringe. (Also, it’s hard to drum up sympathy for a guy who believes a vomit- and semen-covered wedding dress is the height of humor.)
As for the supporting cast: at least four obese characters are used as visual punchlines. Virtually every woman in the film is either a stripper, undeniably crazy, a bimbo, a shrew and/or unable to resist Donny’s advances. (Even though Donny’s a broke-ass, beer-guzzling, outdoor-urinating, mouth-breathing horn dog driving a beat-up Fiero with a Rush emblem on the hood, he has a higher success rate than Don Draper in a Manhattan cocktail lounge at closing hour circa 1960.) And if that’s not bad enough, the aforementioned priest, a rabbi and an African holy man are all turned into cardboard caricatures.
Finally, the fact that a real-life mother and daughter play the teacher at different stages of her life is simply a case of the filmmakers piling on the general “ick” factor.
To say “That’s My Boy” is one of the worst movies of the year is to insult 2012. This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.