- 'THAT'S MY BOY': Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler star.
The first few minutes of "That's My Boy," the latest middle-finger to the world from Adam Sandler, do not contain Sandler and are actually pretty funny. An adolescent by the name of Donny Berger, clutching a pair of Van Halen tickets, screws up the nerve to proposition his teacher, the bombshellicious Mrs. McGarricle. That leads to detention, but detention leads to a hot-for-teacher affair of pure, blissful corruption that is exposed, of course, when a curtain rises at a school assembly to find Donny humping the bejeezus out of Mrs. McGarricle on a piano. While she gets pregnant and a 30-year prison term for her troubles, the media maelstrom propels Donny to bad-boy teen-idol fame unprecedented for a single father who can't drive.
We fast-forward to present-day Donny, played with alternate doses of obnoxiousness and borderline pathos by Sandler. He hasn't paid 20 years of taxes and needs to scrounge up a slab of cash over a weekend to avoid prison. His last hope is to reach out to his estranged but highly successful son, the former Han Solo Berger, played by recent "Saturday Night Live" emigre Andy Samberg. The son, resentful about his crappy childhood, now goes by the assumed name Todd and tells everyone his folks died in an explosion years ago. But as it happens, he's getting married to a shrill WASP during the very weekend his father is in gold-digging mode, and all at the lavish beachside estate of the son's plutocratic boss (Tony Orlando). When Donny crashes the party, here come hijinks!
That's probably about as far as Sandler bothered to formulate this comedic open sewer when he pitched it, and why think ahead any further? The tatters of a plot are just an excuse for Sandler to crack beer after beer after beer (always mugging the labels for the camera; Sandler's movies all double as product-placement infomercials) and climb into hot tubs with bikini babes and make an array of scatological jokes and on and on. He leaves no orifice unplumbed, no fluid unsplattered. Most of the humor seems aimed at blowing a 14-year-old's mind that someone could get away with putting X into a movie. Lots of drinking, fighting, masturbating, urinating, incest, profanity, strip-clubbing and general horndoggery. Vanilla Ice shows up to pee on himself. Once in a while, you chuckle, and there is, believe it or not, some genuine heart in the reconciliation of father and son. But most of what might've been considered jokes are neither funny nor very jokey. When you leave the theater, you look at the floor, hoping no one recognizes you for at least a 10-block radius.
If this is Samberg's intended launchpad into name-above-the-title features, we should all pray for an epiphany to strike him and for him to retreat to a Trappist monastery. The past 30 years of Hollywood comedies are already greased with the remains of former "SNL" talents, and Samberg is funny enough in other media. Like Sandler's before him, Samberg's humor veers toward the musical and toward the endearingly ridiculous, and it can be done with originality — see his Lonely Island music video shorts. He needn't stoop to earning zillions of dollars this way.
Samberg plays Todd as a compliant wimp with a reserve of repressed anger; as in so many comedies geared toward teen-aged boys who spend their lives taking orders from mothers and teachers, he's bossed around by his bride-to-be and finally gets sick of taking it. But of course he does — this is a Sandler flick, in which the image of rebellion and independence falls precisely in line with how a 10th-grader imagines he wants to live one day, drinking cheap American lager and staring at cleavage. Kids, you're being had. And for Samberg, there's still time not to become the next Adam Sandler. One is more than enough.