Has Adam Sandler changed or have audiences changed? Sandler’s new movie, That’s My Boy, is everything you’d expect from the comic-actor responsible for The Water Boy, Happy Gilmore, Little Nicky, Billy Madison and Big Daddy, but it crashed at the box office last weekend, earning a small $13 million.
That’s My Boy has some Big Daddy in it — Sandler’s single-guy character adopted an abandoned 5-year-old in the 1999 film — and the ’80s nostalgia of 1998’s The Wedding Singer.
It’s also as crude and intentionally stupid as any of his previous films. Before the apparently maturing Sandler veered into some comparatively against-type films — such as Funny People and its mix of comedy and heavy drama, and Punch-Drunk Love, a great romantic comedy — he made a profitable specialty of playing rude, crude, loud and childish young men. Now 45, he’s back to the latter, minus the young part, in That’s My Boy.
Sandler stars as Donny Berger, a middle-age man who achieved notoriety at 13. His lust for his teacher, Mary Beth McGarricle, turned out to be mutual. Thirty years on, Donny’s $43,000 debt to the IRS is about to yield three years in the slammer.
Donny’s affair with his teacher, which produced a son, made him a teen sensation all those years ago. He was on magazine covers, he wrote a book, he inspired a TV show. His illicit relationship also resulted in Donny, a kid who was in no way qualified to be a parent, being named guardian of his and McGarricle’s love child. Of course, his teacher couldn’t do the job because she was in prison.
Donny’s ill-gotten glory days are long gone. He’s got $28 to his name. And the ungrateful son he named Han Solo and raised by court order until the child’s 18th birthday has broken all contact with his dad.
Playing the grownup Han Solo, Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg doesn’t do his movie career any favors. Whereas Sandler is amusing in his quintessential Sandler role as Donny, Samberg’s nerd-based stabs at comedy flop.
Despite being seriously damaged by Donny’s parenting, Han Solo has established a new identity and succeeded in life as a hedge fund manager. But then a Parade magazine cover story gives him away. Donny learns of his estranged, about-to-married son’s whereabouts.
Guess who’s crashing the wedding?
That’s My Boy’s conceits include making the elite Wall Street types who populate Todd’s wedding party love Donny and his lower-class sass and humor. They think the guy is the, ah, coolest.
Much debauchery, projection of bodily fluids, strip-club visits, re-bonding, changes of heart and secrets revealed follow. It’s old-school Sandler, but maybe his audience simply outgrew him.