June 15, 2012


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , ,

THAT’S MY BOY:  Not Even For Free – Low-Rent Even For Sandler


THAT’S MY BOY is 116 minutes long.  I mention that up front because, for those of us who consider time spent watching Adam Sandler movies to be akin to a prison term, there’s a constitutional right of due process to let you know how long your sentence is.  So kiss 2 hours of your life goodbye.

One of the fundamental chasms in current pop culture is the Sandler question.  There are plenty of people who thought Grown-Ups, Jack & Jill, Mr. Deeds, the remake of The Longest Yard and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan were all funny, enjoyable movies–they all made at least $75M at the boxoffice–and those audiences may very well have a good time at That’s My Boy too.  As someone who felt, watching those pictures, like Alex undergoing the Ludovico Technique in A Clockwork Orange, I can’t judge the subtle distinctions between them.

It’s not that Sandler is untalented.  On the occasions when he’s turned himself over to other filmmakers (Funny People, Spanglish, Punch-Drunk Love, AKA The Ones That Didn’t Make Any Money), he’s proven himself an interesting, distinctive performer, and of course going back to his days on Saturday Night Live, some of his bits have been hilarious and brilliant.  But as a movie star/producer with complete control over his Happy Madison productions, the vehicles he chooses to make curdle in the projector, mixing the lowest humor with the most strained sentimentality in an often flat-out incompetent way.  That’s My Boy adds to this the decision, for one of the very rare times in his mainstream vehicle career, to go for an R rating, presumably to chase the Hangover/Bridesmaids raunch audience.

That’s My Boy, combined with the cross-dressing romp Jack & Jill and Bucky Larsen:  Born To Be A Star, which Sandler not only produced but co-wrote, form as terrible a triple feature as anyone has ever turned out in a 12-month period.   Boy has a script credited to David Caspe, creator of TV’s marvelous Happy Endings, and is directed by Sean Anders (I guess Sandler’s house director Dennis Dugan was off making a cat food commercial), who gave us Sex Drive and She’s Out Of His League.  It has more of a situation than a plot.   When he was 13 years old, Donny Berger (who grows up to be Sandler) had a passionate affair with his high school teacher (Eva Amurri Martino, who ages to become her real-life mother Susan Sarandon), which leads to the birth of a son.  With teacher in jail, Donny is given responsibility for the child, and treats him like a plaything, naming him Han Solo, getting him a tattoo, letting him eat anything he wants so he becomes a diabetic, etc.  30 years later, the son has turned himself into neurotic, straight-laced Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg), who tells everyone his parents are dead and who’s about to marry even more tight-assed Jamie (Leighton Meester).  Train-wreck Donny, in need of cash, invades the wedding weekend in hopes of luring Todd to a reality-TV reunion with his mother–but also (here’s the sentimentality) wanting to reestablish contact with his son.

In the hands of Sandler and company, this leads to a nonstop festival of self-indulgence and excess (116 minutes!), with what becomes a dull litany of jokes featuring the overweight and elderly, along with vomit, masturbation, excrement, urination and every other conceivable kind of bodily function joke.  Vanilla Ice and Tony Orlando don’t just have cameos, but substantial parts, because Sandler finds the 80s references funny (maybe Sandler should have made Rock of Ages and played the Tom Cruise role).  Nick Swardson, from Bucky Larson, shows up because he’s Sandler’s buddy. Sandler plays Donny with an epically bad New England accent, because who was going to tell him not to?

More telling is the fact that even though Donny is meant to be a failure and an obnoxious loser, incapable of acting like a functional human being let alone a father, virtually every other character treats him like the most charming, conquering hero imaginable, and all the women find him instantly irresistible, because this is an Adam Sandler movie and Sandler, even after all these years, appears to have an unending need to be loved and admired on screen. The one character who doesn’t adore or at least forgive Donny by the end of the movie has to be branded as an ultimate villain, and since Donny has committed just about every vice himself, it’s hard to find something ugly enough to brand that person with, so–I’m about to spoil part of the ending, because who cares, so SPOILER ALERT–Sandler digs around in his box of ugliness and comes up with incest as a climactic punchline.

Andy Samberg will soon be seen to much better advantage in the very good Celeste and Jesse Forever, and presumably he’s a Sandler fan and wanted a big-time studio comedy on his record as he leaves TV and makes a movie career for himself.  It’s harder to figure out what Leighton Meester is doing here, in a role that doesn’t even let her be funny.  A bunch of other SNL alumni–Ana Gasteyer, Will Forte, Rachel Dratch–appear to mug for the camera.

Humor is subjective, and people were laughing at That’s My Boy when I saw it (although their numbers clearly diminished as the movie went on… and on).  Sandler is already shooting Grown-Ups 2, so the happy news is that there won’t be any shortage of product for those contented fans.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."