Anyone who knows me will know I am angry, bitter and cynical person. A few people have accused me of this being an act that I put on, but no I’ve been very committed to being this way for quite a while now. And as a result, I like giving negative reviews. Not enough to alter my opinion, mind you. But since I have to pay for this, I usually only give positive reviews, as I typically only see movies that I want to or are already interested in.
But since it’s approaching Holiday time, I’ve been fairly miserable (I hate this time of year) and looking to let off some steam by giving a hate filled review. This is meant as a long form defense against why I watched and am reviewing That’s My Boy, because I was sure I would hate it. After all his previous movie, Jack and Jill was bad enough to render me barely coherent in rage. So I would probably be able to write a rage filled review of this.
Turns out I was wrong. Oh the movie is bad alright, in fact it’s fucking terrible. But I can’t summon the rage, the way I could for Jack and Jill. I am here to tell you that That’s My Boy is so bad, so worthless, so utterly terrible and putrid and devoid of anything resembling quality, that I can’t even summon any anger. It’s fallen right off the end of my critical graph, past even Jack and Jill into a void I didn’t know existed, into nothingness. Fucking hell, even Freddy Got Fingered didn’t do that.
The only (ONLY) nice thing I’m prepared to say about this movie is that unlike it’s processor, it’s an actual movie. It doesn’t look like a pre-Oscar skit, or something they’d film in 20 minutes for The Tonight Show. It has an actual camera and actually looks like a film should look. That doesn’t mean the cinematography and editing are GOOD, they’re at best passably generic, they just look like they belong in an actual movie.
The story is probably the most loathsome Sandler has ever put out. A teenager has sex with his teacher, who winds up pregnant and he is forced to care for the son. I know, I know, it’s supposedly a teenagers dream or what have you but…we all know this isn’t kosher right? Legally, morally, what have you? Anyway, the son grows up to hate his father and the father grows up to be an asshole who needs money to help with the IRS, but needs his son to reunite with his mother for, oh who gives a fuck?
I could literally go on and on for pages about this movie, about all the things that it does wrong, about how it’s disgusting and deplorable and just plain bad. Adam Sandler is horrifically awful and miscast in the main role (more on that in a moment) but that’s no surprise, with precisely 2 exceptions, he hasn’t made a good movie since the early 90s (and both of those movies had, you know, real actors and a real director). But this movie has the Transformers issue, where it has real actors embarrassing themselves. Susan Sarandon is in this movie, in an admittedly minor role, but the entire time I was sitting there going “Susan. Susan, no.” So she has the admittedly dubious honor of appearing in one of the best movies of the year (Cloud Atlas) and one of the worst. But she’s only on for a few minutes, no the real person hurt by this film is Andy Samberg, a talented comedian whose work with The Lonely Island is justifiably lauded and will have to live with this embarrassing dud on his resume for years. He spends the entire movie looking lost and slightly dull, his normal genius comic persona buried underneath a hopeless character, which doesn’t seem at all suited for him or his comedy style.
Of course he’s not the only character who’s hopeless in this movie, as the movie itself seems to not understand itself or it’s main character. Consider, for a moment, the character who Adam Sandler is playing. He’s playing a hopelessly alcoholic, drug abusing, childish, nostalgia obsessed, lecherous manchild, trying to recapture his glory days. His glory days, for the record, are some early fame and fortune based on him, to borrow a phrase someone else used, a rape survivor. This should be a dark and disturbing character, someone who is at best disconcerting and at worst, downright alarming. This is great fodder for a Death at a Funeral style dark comedy. But the movie seems to want us to regard him as the coolest guy in the world. Can I ask…why? The movie goes out of it’s way to present Sandler’s character as the guy who can make anyone happy, who can make ‘squares’ fun and who can get any chick and he just strikes me as annoying, a boorish lout who is looking to coast through life and who’s madness mantra of ‘I’m a good person’ seems to be all that’s holding this misplaced world view together.
This leads to my final point (as I promised myself I would avoid, just for this review, bitching about script or characters or story structure or the fact that this movie has no idea how to structure a joke properly). The movie is weirdly mean spirited, which all ties back to the issue of Sandler in the lead. Fat people, nerds, gays, people of other races (Chinese this time, to contrast with Latinos from the last one) and women of all types, all get raked over the coals, and it all seems oddly mean spirited. And not in a challenging or interesting way, just cruel. I bring it back to Sandler, and the way the movie treats him. Most comedies work by making their leads get hurt or mocked. Consider some of the classic comedies, everything from City Lights to Fawlty Towers and how they treat their lead characters. Hell, consider The Lonely Island’s song, Threw It On The Ground and how it treats the singer (if you haven’t seen/heard it, fix that). Imagine if the song was treating the lead as something other than a pretentious douchebag. Wouldn’t that be insane? Wouldn’t that just destroy the comedy of the song? I repeat: Adam Sandler’s character should be everything from pathetic to downright disturbing, but the movie wants us to regard him as awesome. How is that funny? Where is the joke?
Aside from those things (all 1000+ words of it) there’s not a whole ton to say. There is precisely one actual joke in this entire movie, one setup-punchline and it’s only bordering on clever. The rest is simply presenting gross or disgusting things and saying ‘isn’t that funny?” Except it’s not.
I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life, and a lot of them were bad. But I can’t remember the last time a movie actually made me feel like this. No anger, no rage, no snarky humor, not even ironic cruelty. Just an empty feeling of depression, like I’ve been defeated (yes I know it was a box office failure, but given how Sandler’s movies are financed and run, I doubt anyone actually lost money on it. I don’t have the time or energy to go over it now, so I’m just going to throw a link to RedLetterMedia’s excellent video on the subject here). What’s most depressing about this, and it’s processor Jack and Jill is how they reframe the world. A lot of comedies I’ve seen, from some of Sandler’s movies (Don’t Mess With the Zohan), to Jim Carrie’s (Dumb and Dumber) to more obscure ones (Dude, Where’s My Car), all of which are basically terrible, seem better by comparison. Neither of them are anywhere near the level of the terrible, but energetic and creative Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. So basically what I’m saying is That’s My Boy has finally made me lower my comedy standards and if that’s not damning criticism, I don’t know what is.
Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and the entire time Sarandon was on screen, he kept hoping Tim Curry would show up in drag.