That's My Boy (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
16Jun/124

That’s My Boy (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

First, let's get two important things about that's the world that That's My Boy is coming from out of the way:

1) Incest is horrifying.

2) Pedophilia is awesome.

Mind you, not just any sort of pedophilia, just the older woman seducing a young boy sort of thing-- I assume the movie about the 10-year-old girl having crazy sex with a male schoolteacher and becoming a national hero because of it is still sitting on a drawing board somewhere. The film's use of this as a narrative device undoubtedly reveals that, yes, we're in for another machismo screed from Adam Sandler, and more to the point that we're in R rated territory for this go around.

The plot is this: A young schoolboy named Donny is seduced by his teacher, Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). They begin a torrid affair which ends when they're revealed mid copulation to an auditorium filled with his entire school. McGarricale runs off in a panic, but Donny finds himself an instant star, and is Photoshopped onto dozens of magazine covers between dozens of Coreys.

That facial expression on the left is the direct result of ACTING.

That kid grows up to be a washed up semi-celebrity played by Sandler, naturally, and That's My Boy, unlike Sandler's last film Jack and Jill, is more straightforward and fits solidly in the rest of his canon, almost plot point for plot point:

An immature jackass hangs out with washed up b-list star and unattractive woman in order win over the girl of his dreams through revealing that a person in their lives is secretly into some gross fucked up shit. Also everyone has to end up rich and looking at breasts.

Run that plot description through something like The Wedding Singer or 50 First Dates and it'll probably ring a bit familiar. The big twist for That's My Boy is that Sandler (or his character, whoever the hell) isn't pursuing a romantic interest but is more concerned with connecting with his estranged son, Han Solo (Andy Samberg) in hopes of getting $50,000 to keep him out of jail. With the help of his pal Vanilla Ice (Vanilla Ice), he sets out to do so by showering his son with attention, praise, and acres of male bonding in a bunch of situations that may have well come from a "Rejected Ideas for Hangover 2" list.

Unfortunately Han (going through most of the movie with the more inconspicuous moniker of Todd because of how ashamed he is of his father) is about to be married to Jamie (Leighton Meester) in an idyllic Cape Cod wedding. She has a deep dark secret of her own, and once Sandler finds it out, he has to decide whether or not to take a bribe or save his son from the marriage.

A fat black stripper? This is almost as funny as the stripper who has a neck brace!

There's one bit I really liked, since Sandler's character in this film can be called, generously, an alcoholic. Besides hiding beers all over his body and drinking at any time of the day (which no one comments on), his weapon of choice is the beer bottle and all of his down time is spent in a strip club. It's rare I've seen a film that's so overtly concerned with drinking and not once does it make mention of a hangover.

Regardless, throughout the movie we've been treated many times to cans of Budweiser with their labels carefully turned towards and even a throwback to one of their ad campaigns as we get a minute long rendition of those "WHASSUP" commercials from 19-dickety-whenever. That's why, when this dialogue occurs, I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever heard.

"Hey, do you have any Axe Body Spray?"
"No. Because I'm not a fucking douchebag."

See, it's funny because it sounds like it's about to be more goddamn product placement, and it's not, it's actually outright insulting an awful awful product.

And then Sandler drinks Rolling Rock for a good ten minutes.

The Sandler/Samberg/Ice love triangle never really gets off the ground.

Like in a lot of Sandler's later work, defining modern masculinity remains a big component, with Donny's entire back story and existence operating as some sort of machismo fueled parade of carnality. Sandler spends a great deal of the film in a strip club, and even gets a scene in a hot tub full of bikini clad women. Men want to be him, women want to sleep with him.

That in-character reason is because Donny was a celebrity, and, strangely enough, for technically being the victim of pedophilia. The film carefully underlines how awesome this is-- all the adult males give each other high fives, and the judge who sends Ms. McGarricle to jail is a fat, unattractive woman with a bad hairdo. Subtlety is not on tap here.

This plays into the idea that a man fully in touch with his sexual capabilities (and in touch at an early age) (not like that, weirdo) is far more admirable than, well, basically anything else. Sexual mastery and a good sense of humor is all that matters in the world of Sandler, and as soon as people know it, they fall for his schtick.

This is counterbalanced another character in the film, Chad (Milo Ventimiglia), Jamie's brother and a Marine with a couple of dark secrets, including that he isn't a Marine. It's an act to cover his love of Jazz dancing, and this fits in with Sandler's juvenile views-- the people who act super macho are probably secretly into femmy things. Donny is portrayed as the perfect balance because he's hard drinking and fun loving, which is much more important than being ripped and a bit femmy.

Donny becomes the school's hero for screwing the teacher. I don't think it's coincidental it looks like that shot from Rocky.

Nostalgia informs a great deal of That's My Boy, and it's safe to say that if you weren't around in between 1989 to 1999 that a great deal of the film will be lost to you. References abound to shit I hardly remember despite having lived through that time, and it's interesting since 'Donny's' golden age of fame and adoration seems to run dangerously close to Sandler's own.

Also interesting about the film is how Donny's faded stardom may also account for society's changing viewpoints since then. Society still celebrates young men sleeping with hot teachers (check out the front page of Fark any given day of the week to see this in play), but it's become so common to the point that Donny's adventure has been forgotten by many.

The moral of the film turns out to be that Donny, if here were not given so much money to be an irresponsible jackass, would not act like an irresponsible jackass. Now substitute 'Donny' with 'Sandler' in that sentence and I think you'll find how close to home this seems to be.

Like Woody Allen, Sandler modulates his stories based on his personality. Sometimes he stretches and pushes himself into new and interesting directions (again, see Jack and Jill), but That's My Boy feels like a reunion album rather than a new passion project. But then again, hell, even Woody made Crimes and Misdemeanors three times.

In case you think I'm being grossly generous in comparing Sandler to Allen, think about this: he puts out a movie or two a year consistently. He's popular despite being widely dismissed for catering to a certain crowd. He reexamines his films formulas and sometimes returns to them, looking for perfection. He imbues his films with a meta narrative that seems nakedly about his own life, and always aims for a moment of genuine emotion in all of his films.

Look, I'm not going to say he succeeds, or even that he makes movies for my sensibilities, but the similarities are there.

Still less embarrassing than my own back tattoo.

What I find interesting about the film is how disgusting it aims to be (one woman licks semen off her own wedding dress just to confirm, yes, it is semen), but how completely sanitized its universe still is. Is there incest and pedophilia? Yes. Are they portrayed as disgusting? Eh, not particularly. All of the people at the strip club seem to have their lives together, and even the nutso war vet who is a grinning simpleton (Nick Swardson) manages to eke out good advice when the plot calls for it.

The problems with this film are, undeniably, many, from the amazingly unnecessary and awful voice that Sandler has adopted for Donny and the film's view of women, though neither are particularly surprising. Samberg pretty much plays the straight man to Sandler's craziness, and every other character in the movie adores Donny to an almost disturbing degree, though that's probably intentional. Since the movie allows Sandler to exist in one consistent character, it remains funnier than Jack and Jill, but it feels safer and less interested in itself.

If Sandler decides to take this plot through a fourth go around, I'd be fascinated to see him deal with something even stranger, that could push his formula out of the doldrums and into a new realm: what if Donny had had a daughter instead?

Posted by Danny

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  1. I think the problem Sandler is facing is that his audience has grown older and matured and he is still making the same film he made 15 years ago.

    I once saw a stripper wearing a leg brace….

    • Sandler’s more canny that, and tries to put out some ‘artsier’ fare every so often. The Sandler movie adult Sandler fans would have wanted should have been Funny People, but that flopped so he retreated to money makers. It’s cynical to retreat to the profit motive, but I can’t say I blame Sandler– he puts in randiness but still let’s themes of dissatisfaction and regret litter his films. I don’t remember if I put this in the review or not, but he’s very much like Jerry Lewis– he can’t escape being a clown.

  2. I actually liked Funny People – it was more or less refreshing. That might just be me though because I never did like his old movies.

    • I won’t lie, I’ve still got to see that one. The trailers made it look painful to me, but I’ll have to give it a shot at some point or my assumptions about the movie may overtake what actually happens in it.


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