Is it time for Adam Sandler to stop appearing in his own movies? That’s My Boy, a return to the R-rated, raunchy humor of the comedian’s early stand-up days, opens with a fairly hilarious prologue in which a horny high school kid named Donny gets it on with his teacher and becomes a tabloid celebrity after she is sentenced to 30 years in prison for corrupting a minor.
Donny grows up to become a shaggy, unemployed loser (Sandler) who drives a rusted Fiero, hangs out at an omelets-and-strip-joint bar called Bacon & Leggs and owes $43,000 in back taxes. His estranged son born out of the affair — named Han Solo at birth, but now going by the more reasonable Todd (Andy Samberg) — is a successful executive who tells everyone his father died in an explosion.
Todd is preparing to marry his high-maintenance girlfriend (Leighton Meester) when Dad blows back into his life, swigging Budweisers and scratching his crotch and basically acting like an immature 8-year-old. That’s My Boy is pretty much the exact same movie as the atrocious Jack and Jill, except instead of a brother and a sister learning to understand and accept each other, this time it’s a father and a son. What’s odd about the film, which was directed by Sean Anders with much more panache than this material merited, is that it’s actually pretty funny when Sandler’s off the screen. Vanilla Ice, playing a washed-up rapper named Vanilla Ice, is much more charismatic and endearing that you’d suspect. He steals so many scenes from his famous co-stars, and seems so relaxed and comfortable poking fun at himself, I kept wishing the movie had been about him.
James Caan shows up as a priest who prefers fistfights to prayers, and Heroes’ Milo Ventiglia is amusing as Todd’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, a jarhead with a violent streak. Samberg, who spends most of the movie nobly suffering indignities, brings along several of his former Saturday Night Live co-stars for small roles, such as Will Forte and Rachel Dratsch as an odd married couple. As usual for Sandler, there are jokes about fat people and old people and foreigners, but there are also a few genuinely good bits of ensemble comedy, such as a family baseball game in which Todd’s utter lack of physical coordination and athletic skills leads to amusing humiliation.
Eventually, though, That’s My Boy puts Sandler front and center, the way his movies always must. Sporting a 1980s mullet, another one of his whiny, presumably “funny” voices and a distractingly large gut, Sandler no longer fits the bill of iconoclastic bad boy — he’s become the establishment, the sort of person he once rebelled against, and the spark and wit of the wordplay that made him a star on SNL have vanished, too. That’s My Boy more than lives up to its R-rating — including one gross-out gag repulsive enough to make you put down your popcorn — but there are only so many times the actor is going to be able to lean on celebrity cameos and fart jokes before even his most faithful audience abandons him. You know you’re in trouble when you draw fewer laughs than Tony Orlando — and he’s not even trying to be funny.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Vanilla Ice, Milo Ventiglia, Tony Orlando, James Caan, Peggy Stewart.
Director: Sean Anders.
Screenwriter: David Caspe.
Producers: Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler.
A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 109 minutes. Vulgar language, nudity, sexual situations, drug use, crass humor. Playing at: area theaters.