Moviegoers usually experience moments of disbelief when taking in a spectacle like Avatar. However, I think the movie that will elicit the most gasps this year will be That’s My Boy, a shockingly crude film that sets the bar so low for a comedy from a major studio that others will have to tunnel under it to be more offensive. Yes, I know I’m not getting drawing room comedy with an Adam Sandler vehicle, but a relentless string of jokes about statutory rape, sex with octogenarians and incest are a bit shocking even in this lowest common denominator arena.
Sandler is Donny Berger, a Boston ne’er-do-well whose claim to fame is that in the late 1980s he knocked up his high school teacher when he was 14 years old. The educator’s ensuing trial became a media sensation and before you know it, Berger was the freak star of his day, seeing his life turned into a TV movie, spending a great deal of his money on ill-advised tattoos and naming his son Han Solo Berger. Going through life without guidance or a filter, he finds himself in debt to the IRS to the tune of $43,000 and engages in a scheme to reunite with his son and his mother at the prison she’s in for a schlocky TV special and a big payday. Too bad his boy, who has renamed himself Todd (Andy Samberg), wants nothing to do with him, now that he’s become a successful investment banker and is on the verge of marrying his well-to-do girlfriend (Leighton Meester).
When Donny crashes the high society world Todd’s hidden himself in, jokes about class abound as the character goes out of his way to deflate the pomposity that surrounds him. However, the script by David Caspe puts forth the notion that despite their wealth, the rich are just as dysfunctional as us common folk. Instead of reacting in horror to Donny’s crudeness, they let their own freak flags fly. Before you know it, hot tub parties are the order of the day and the interloper is bedding the family’s matriarch, an 80-year-old former swimsuit model (Peggy Stewart).
It’s obvious that Sandler, at least at this stage in his career, is only concerned about raking in the cash and not pushing himself as an artist. Gone is the actor who challenged himself with Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, and in his place is a performer who’s going down the same path Burt Reynolds once went down, repeating himself ad nauseum until he becomes a parody of himself and eventually shunned by a once adoring public. Of course, millions of dollars will serve as a balm when Sandler’s star fades.
Perhaps what’s most disturbing is that the film has no shame. It gleefully thumbs its nose at social mores and conventions, wallowing in its bad taste just because it can. This isn’t shock humor in the quest for laughs, like say There’s Something About Mary. Rather it’s an adolescent fit of a film that reflects its main character in its immaturity and crassness. And while you might chuckle at it a couple of times, that certainly isn’t anything you’ll be proud of, though I have to say that the sight of an obese stripper hanging upside down on a pole eating an omelet isn’t something you see everyday. It’s the type of movie that makes you thankful for small favors.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.