You have to give Adam Sandler credit. Whatever film held the record for gross vulgarity and chronic obsession with body fluids and functions has been wiped off the map by his new film, “That’s My Boy.” While no doubt it won’t hold the record for long, such is the state of contemporary American cinema, he has produced a film that glories in this single fixation perhaps even to its own detriment.
For at its heart — one of the few body organs never mentioned in this comedy — “That’s My Boy” tells an astonishingly old-fashioned and indeed highly predictable tale: Estranged black sheep father looks up clean-cut son on the eve of his wedding, struggles to bond with his son anew and both dad and son gain new perspective on life in the process.
Wholesome as it gets, right? Well, you know that won’t be the case in an Adam Sandler film. “That’s My Boy” approvingly celebrates child molestation, alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, priestly misconduct, sexual infidelity, child endangerment and public drunkenness but does frown upon incest. It’s good to know Sandler draws the line somewhere.
The story begins in the past when teenage Donny Berger (Justin Weaver) develops what newspapers call an “inappropriate relationship” with his hot high-school teacher, Miss McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). This illicit liaison results in a 30-year jail sentence for Miss McGarricle and a male baby for young Donny to raise by himself. (No mention is made of any parents that should have taken over those chores.)
Donny, whose instant celebrityhood as the kid who nailed his high-school teacher showers him with momentary riches, ignores or abuses his parental duties, causing the young son to flee his dad as soon as legally capable. He changes not only his name and identity — calling himself Todd (Andy Samberg) instead of Han Solo — “How cool a name is that!” Donny still enthuses — but insists his parents “blew up” many years ago.
In the present day and owing the IRS buckets of money in back taxes, Donny (Sandler) decides to approach his love child, now a Wall Street whiz kid. With a sleazy reality-show producer, Donny has hatched a scheme to cash in on the former notoriety of him and his son.
(Side note: Don’t do the math. Since there are only a dozen years of age between Sandler, 45, and Samberg, 33, and Sander doesn’t want to play a character his own age, the dates and ages between father and son don’t begin to match.)
So Donny, who is essentially the Three Stooges all rolled into one only with disgusting social habits to boot, crashes the wedding weekend on a swank New England seaside estate and chaos ensues. Only the joke of the movie, written by David Caspe and directed by Sean Anders, is that the social swells and mavens of Wall Street just adore Donny’s pronounced vulgarity. Indeed he is so carnally obsessed that old granny can’t wait to jump his bones. It gets worse: Todd’s mild-mannered though flustered behavior is viewed by everyone including his fiancee (Leighton Meester) as a serious character flaw.
Thus, the stage is set for Sandler, tugging on a beer in nearly every scene, to perform a virtual one-man show in clownish repugnancy and slapstick crudeness amid a large number of dress extras. Youngsters who slip past the R-rating barrier will no doubt snicker enough to risk pulling concession-stand sodas and popcorn into their lungs; for many others though, watching this is the equivalent of not imbibing alcohol at a party where the sole form of entertainment is drunk Uncle Ed performing in a lampshade and high heels.
One curious factor here is Sandler’s penchant for dragging in a number of former celebrities such as Vanilla Ice (who plays a has-been white rapper named Vanilla Ice) Tony Orlando and Todd Bridges. For that matter, James Caan and Susan Sarandon turn up in roles you might think they would politely turn down.
Since no animals were hurt in the making of this film and no bad gag here hasn’t been performed in other motion pictures, “That’s My Boy” can’t be called a blot on cinema. It’s just further evidence that the race for the bottom shows no sign of abating any time soon.
Opened: June 15 (Columbia Pictures)
Production companies: Columbia Pictures presents in association with Relativity Media a Happy Madison production
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Vanilla Ice, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, Milo Ventimiglia, Susan Sarandon, James Caan
Director: Sean Anders
Screenwriter: David Caspe
Producers: Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Heather Parry, Allen Covert
Executive producers: Barry Bernardi, John Morris, Dennis Dugan, Tim Herlihy
Director of photography: Brandon Trost
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Costume designer: Ellen Lutter
Editor: Tom Costain
R rating, 116 minutes