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Friday, 18 January 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - That's My Boy

Directed by: Sean Anders

Produced by: Adam Sandler
Allen Covert
Jack Giarraputo
Heather Parry

Screenplay by: David Caspe

Starring: Adam Sandler
Andy Samberg
Leighton Meester
Susan Sarandon
Eva Amurri Martino
Vanilla Ice
Milo Ventimiglia

Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by: Brandon Trost

Editing by: Tom Costain

Studio(s): Happy Madison Productions
Relativity Media

Distributed by: Colombia Pictures

Release date(s): June 15, 2012 (United States)
September 7, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $70 million

Box office revenue: $57, 719, 093

Alright folks, for those of you who don't know, I've got this review and three others (A Dangerous Method, Argo, Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai) coming in, and then I'm gonna post a belated arrival with regards to my review of the month for December. The final month for review will be January (my cut-off point being February 1st), reviews for which I will be posting in capsule format and following with a review for the month. My reviews might be belated, but I'm already ahead of the game in terms of the films, having watched Cockneys Vs Zombies, am going to see Jack Reacher tonight, and have Django Unchained and Les Miserables to look at down the pipeline. On another note, my condolences go out to the family of the great Nagisa Oshima, who passed away from pneumonia on the 15th. I'm a big fan of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and Oshima-san was one of the giants of Japanese cinema in the later half of the 20th century. He will be missed. Finally, with the Oscar season in motion, I'm going to also be posting this year's inductions into The Thin White Dude's Hall Of Fame to precede my year-end awards, so, as ever, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for digestion (or throwing up!) is That's My Boy, starring Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg of The Lonely Island. It's the second live-action film that came out in the UK in 2012 starring Adam Sandler. The first was Jack And Jill, the first film I saw back in 2012, which to me felt like the nail in this particular coffin for Adam Sandler. This dude has had one contentious relationship with yours truly, as I love some of his early movies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, then went into a kid of inbetweeny stage where he was releasing Anger Management and The Longest Yard, which were decent films, but really Sandler-lite. Then he did Funny People, which was kind of for him what The Wrestler was for Mickey Rourke, his redemption song, his way of saying "I'm an idiot, I made some crappy movies, now I'm going back towards credibility." The problem was he followed Funny People with Grown Ups, a horrendous film in which him and his friends go on holiday, calling each other by different names so it could be released in the cinemas, producing terrible Kevin James movies (yes, Zookeeper) and as I said, the bane of it all. Jack And Jill. It's nearly a full twelve months since I saw that movie, and it's going to take something really terrible to displace it as my worst film of 2012, because it is the shit without the sandwich. Point being with the preamble, I had given up on Adam Sandler, but a certain somebody over at Danland Movies kept banging on about how good That's My Boy was. I won't lie, I was quite trepidatious, because my good friend does like some really silly shit, but then he placed it in his Top Ten of 2012 and that made me think that I should give it a watch. Danland is a great reviewer, and he's one of the few people who liked That's My Boy, because this movie has received a near uniformly hostile reception since it's release. Most of this seems to be levelled at the fact that there is some controversial content involving the comedic portrayal of pedophilia, incest and statutory rape, with Alonso Duralde calling it "vulgar, trite, sexist, misogynist, hacky, tacky, gross, sentimental and stupid, with occasional flourishes of racism and veiled homophobia thrown in to boot."Also, my resident unwitting mentor Mark Kermode despised the film, so I had a lot to contend with going into this one. Plot synopsis here, in 1984, thirteen-year-old Donny Berger (Justin Weaver) has an affair with teacher Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino), and after being caught out, she is sentenced to thirty years in prison, while Donny's family are given custody of the unborn child conceived in the course of the relationship. After a period of celebrity and fame, in 2012, Donny (Adam Sandler) has lost touch with his son, and is an alcoholic who has squandered all of his money. His son, who is no longer obese and has changed his name to Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg), is working as a successful businessman and is engaged to be married to a woman named Jamie (Leighton Meester). Facing prison due to owing $43,000 to the I.R.S., Donny seeks out his son, so he can mooch money off of him, so he can avoid going behind bars. Comprende?

Despite all this negative press (in the time I've been working on this review, someone has tinkered with the Wikipedia entry so that it reads "comedy" film. P.S. If you're going to mess with things, do it properly i.e. - 'comedy,' berk!), I must say that I find myself (only slightly) guiltily enjoying That's My Boy. For starters, I think the return to R-rated comedy has given Sandler and co a bit more leeway where the gags are regarded. People are complaining about the controversial humour, and I used to think similarly, but to get overly moral about something like That's My Boy is most likely what they want you to do. For me, there was some very bald and indeed creative gags that made me bowl over with laughter. It isn't just cheap gags, and they worked in a way that like a good horror-comedy, in that I was laughing heartily and equally disgusted (at myself as much the film) at the same time. Also, the cast were uniformly solid. It's no stretch for Sandler, who's doing 'that voice' again, but he's still a humorous and engaging screen presence, which is something to be merited for given how despicable his character is. Samberg also plays a good everyman in a situation which while we ourselves may never have to find ourselves in, can sympathise with and understand his predicament, being stuck with this dead weight of a father. Furthermore, while these guys may be career comedians, but it is rather brave of Susan Sarandon, Eva Amurri Martino, Leighton Meester, Milo Ventimiglia and Vanilla Ice to so readily be willing to debase themselves in this way. I say that because especially for the young women (Sarandon can get away with anything!) in this frat-boy comedy this could be a potentially career-threatening movie, but they throw themselves wholeheartedly into it and for that they must be complimented. Also, Sean Anders' direction of this Happy Madison production is a breath of fresh air. Dennis Dugan has done a horrendous collection of jobbing directorial duties as of late as one of their regulars, and Frank Coraci's Zookeeper was another mess, so to have a newer director come in and take the reigns was a welcome change. Furthermore, as with many of Happy Madison's productions, it really could have went either way, and Anders' controlled and astute direction manages to reign in some of the usual pitfalls. Although this isn't hard to do, That's My Boy is Happy Madison and Adam Sandler's best movie in years and I'd be denying it if I didn't say that it's a genuinely gutsy comedy that instead of going for the easy lowbrow tries to something daring and different.

With those nice being said, That's My Boy, while a step above many other Sandler/Happy Madison productions, is still a pretty flawed movie in a number of ways. I was going on a couple of reviews back about the length of The Hobbit, believe me, the case is more so for this movie. David Caspe can sure write a good gag, but boy does that guy need beaten with a stick and given the Roger Corman deal of ninety-two minutes or less. This is about as long as the movie should be. I had to sit there for two hours watching this, and while it's funny, it is also at times excruciatingly exhausting. It gave me enough time to figure out most of the final act (including the final twist, I might add), and if this had been parred down to ninety minutes, this would have been a great comedy. Another added irritable thing that comes with this running time is that I have to listen to another cumbersome murder-by-numbers score by Rupert Gregson-Williams. As much a regular collaborator as Dennis Dugan, he fires out what is not necessarily the very same score he has done for other Happy Madison films, but he applies the same, lazy method of sticking by Hollywood scoring conventions. Yes, it's an Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra case, and I'd much rather not be told when to feel and what to think (Chaplin strikes again!) by someone hitting a minor note on a keyboard, which clearly says "This is where I'm meant to feel sad and sympathetic to the plight of these human beings." No, I'm not going to, they're horrible, but that's okay, you don't need to underline it with this saccharine nonsense that rips away a tinge of humorous awkwardness or any semblance of irony. Quiet, you twaddling twit, lest I send Rock Monster Rollins in to show you how to make music by method of bashing one's skull off a desk! Nothing personal, I just no patience for a lack of creativity, folks! Finally, how did the producers manage to spend $70 million on this?    

Aside from these issues involving a flabby script and a terrible score, That's My Boy is a good showing from Happy Madison. Thought it's the textual equivalent of a morbidly obese buffoon, the script has got some genuinely hilarious moments that work on the same basis of horror-comedy, in that you are both throughly amused and absolutely disgusted at the proceedings. Sandler and Samberg are solid comedic leads, while the rest of the cast (particularly Martino and Meester) deserve credit for being brave enough to debase themselves wholeheartedly. Finally, Sean Anders is a welcoming presence as a director, earnestly trying to keep the reigns to control another one of Sandler's untamed beasts, and as a result, we get the best Adam Sandler movie in a good few years. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Relaxed (I've had a quiet week of reading Kafka and Judge Dredd, watching movies, reviewing them, playing Dishonoured and walking the dog)

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