If Jack and Jill wasn’t enough, That’s My Boy is full of harbingers that Adam Sandler’s career as audience pleasing comic is coming to an end. For sure, he won’t go broke, and every now and then he’ll step away from his own production company and make a decent film like Funny People or Punch Drunk Love, but so long as he peddles silly, raunchy comedies, he will cease to be entertaining. I’m certainly not against raunch, but it seems to be the only element Sandler has worked with in his most recent films, something that is doubly damning when the content of the raunch is most always centered on urine.
If Sandler were writing alongside Rabelais, then his fetish with defecation and micturition would be applauded and seen through the lens of the grotesque body; however, he’s not, and Sandler’s inclusion of excrement is often linked to shame, regret, humiliation, and adolescence. (The scene from Grown Ups where Kevin James surrounded by dark-blue-tinted water symbolizing its use as a urinal comes to mind.) Instead of funny and playful, the humor is gross, not grotesque. There’s little value in this if the audience is above fifteen years old.
So, what road to redemption needs to be taken? Well, clearly, Sandler must uber-raunch his recent stream of PG-13 films and elevate to the R-rated level – which seems the only explanation for That’s My Boy (unless of course we consider this film the final document proving that Andy Samberg really is the result of Lorne Michaels growing Sandler’s DNA in a Petri dish for the last couple of decades).
Here, Sandler plays Donny Berger, a hard partying father who is tasked with raising a son at the age of eighteen. Of course, predictable hilarity ensues and there will be a break in their relationship until his son’s, Todd’s, wedding day. Of course, this is when Donny shows up and proceeds to ruin most everything while attempting to bond with his son. (Perhaps the writers just watched Bridesmaids.) To be fair, Bridesmaids, while rather unfunny, reinvented the female-centric comedy by fashioning a rather unlikable character whose philandering mirrors her male counterpart. (More on the flaws inherent in this idea here.) However, it is hard to imagine that That’s My Boy is reinventing anything – whether it be the raunchy comedy or Sandler himself.
For Sandler, the tropes within are par for the course and merely reiterations of the more annoying moments of Little Nicky and Billy Madison. For the genre, the raunch should transcend the grotesque. Instead of an environment of arrested development and the shame therein, foster a bond within the gross. Offer a suggestion that transgressions are human and unifying whereas social constructions create pretentious automatons. Clearly, I can’t suggest that drunkenly urinating and vomiting in public should become an acceptable recreational activity; however, the audacity of the statement would at least lead to a discourse on the fine line between perversion and propriety.
Instead, That’s My Boy spawns a discussion on whether or not Andy Samberg’s predecessor is also his inevitable fate.