Middle Row, Centre: Formulaic, but Sandler Pulls it Off

Adam Sandler’s latest starring vehicle is a crude and lewd piece of low-life comedy that may well offend a certain demographic slice of the population, and will probably endear itself mightily to yet another.

In That’s My Boy, Sandler is teamed with fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Andy Samberg to play a loutish boor of an ex-reality TV star down on his luck, with a lot of family history to unravel.

Sandler plays Donny Berger, whose claim to fame is that he had an affair with his sexy Grade 8 teacher, Mary McGarricle (played by Eva Amurri Martino, daughter of actress Susan Sarandon), at a Boston junior high school at the age of 14.

When the two are exposed, with the teacher pregnant, she is sentenced to 30 years in the Massachusetts penal system for statutory rape. The young father is awarded custody of the product of their transgression, played by Samberg.

Donny names his son Han Solo and, being still a kid himself, raises him on junk food, to the point where the boy becomes a 400-pound diabetic who leaves home as soon as he turned 18.

The son reconstitutes himself, changes his name to Todd Prescott, loses weight and becomes a successful hedge fund executive.

As for his parents, he tells everyone they died in an explosion.

Meanwhile, Donny has quickly run through the money he’s made selling his story to TV, and eventually finds himself on the hook to the Internal Revenue Service for $43,000.

He comes up with a scheme to collaborate with a sleazy TV producer on the strength of his former reputation, to film a prison-door family reunion.

Thinking his money worries are solved, he crashes his son’s wedding to the girl of his dreams, with the news that his mother (played by Sarandon, in an interesting casting twist) is sick in prison and wants to see him.

Todd takes the bait, but introduces Donny to the wedding party as an old friend, rather than his father.

Donny proceeds to ingratiate himself with the wedding guests, including the foppish Phil, played by Will Forte, who’s featured in the upcoming Rock of Ages.

When Phil takes the male wedding guests to a toney spa for their stag celebration, Donny protests and leads them instead to his favourite strip club for a night of drunken debauchery, which is thoroughly and uncharacteristically enjoyed by his henpecked son.

The real father-son bonding now begins. From now on, Donny has us all eating out of his hand.

Sandler’s genius compels us to side with the uncouth Donny, who is a breath of fresh air—even with his grating South Boston accent—in comparison to Todd’s scheming fiancé and the rest of the wedding party, who are mostly revealed as phonies of one description or another.

In many ways, That’s My Boy is forgettable, formulaic comedy, but Sandler pulls it off. We’re alternately grimacing at his gaucheries and applauding his overwhelming chutzpah.

It plays at 6:45 and 9:15 p.m. at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated 14A.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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