While still in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd (Andy Samberg), and raised him as a single parent up until Todd's 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd's world comes crashing down on the eve of his wedding when an uninvited Donny suddenly shows up. Trying desperately to reconnect with his son, Donny is now forced to deal with the repercussions of his bad parenting skills.
As with any Adam Sandler movie, That's My Boy is watchable, to say the least. The type-specific formula of his films proves solid in That's My Boy, where a man will have to convince, overcome, reach out, or let go of selfish behavior so he can be loved. In this case the love he seeks is that of his illegitimate son whom he fathered as a teen with his teacher, Miss McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). Miss McGarricle was sent to prison for having the affair with Donny, an affair she started and to this day Donny and Miss McGarricle vow they still love one another. Sentenced to 30 years in prison, Miss McGarricle did not help raise the child, that responsibility fell to Donny. Having no way to earn a living Donny did the only thing he was good at, being a celebrity because of his scandalous affair. It paid off for him, until his lifestyle got in the way and he went bust. Now a middle-aged man without any money and a tax-debt of $43,000, Donny needs help and no one cares about the kid who had an affair with his teacher anymore--Donny is a washed up child reality-star, of sorts. His son Todd (Andy Samberg), has not seen him since he was eighteen because Todd hates Donny, but that is about to change as Donny crashes the wedding weekend of Todd and his fiance Jamie (Leighton Meester).
The story behind That's My Boy is not complicated and it makes use of some great inside-jokes for a generation raised on Todd Bridges and Vanilla Ice. The opening song over the credits, Def Leopard's "Rock of Ages," that quotes Neil Young's "My My, Hey Hey", states "It is better to burn out, than fade away." Donny faded away, but his 80s haircut and style have not gone anywhere; kind of like Adam Sandler's career as he is stuck in a comedy rut with the films he has released over the past few years. That's My Boy is not going to dig Sandler out of his ditch, but it won't make it grow deeper either. As always there is heart in the film, its part of the formula, but that heart is bogged down by characters who are uninteresting, or given roles that are embarrassing to watch one of them perform (i.e. James Caan and Susan Sarandon--why?!). For those who enjoy the Sandler formula, even if it is played-out, That's My Boy will get you through and probably not disappoint. For those of us who want to see another The Wedding Singer or Big Daddy come from Happy Madison Productions our wait continues as we grow more and more bored with Adam Sandler every day.
That's My Boy is an Adam Sandler movie. The comedy is low-brow, the main character played by Sandler whines through the majority of his dialogue while having a childish lisp a grown man should have grown out of long ago. The inclusion of Andy Samberg's more serious demeanor with comedy, using his delayed reactions to deliver a punchline does help That's My Boy from being an absolute waste. When you measure it against the ghastly character Chad (Milo Ventimiglia) who is a man in uniform with a penchant for violence, and acting like a lunatic, the hope that That's My Boy may be a good movie evaporates. If Leighton Meester ever showed comedic talents it would never be known from That's My Boy as she is too busy being uptight all the time. Throw in James Caan as a psycho Catholic priest and what should be funny is anything but. As for the big twist at the end, it may be the most awkward, poorly directed, and full of sloppily delivered dialogue ever filmed. It hurt watching the three characters who appear in it act out the parts, say the dialogue, and attempt to be funny; even worse is that these are not bad actors, they are just stuck in a movie called That's My Boy.
When there are laughs in That's My Boy they arrive in small doses because the majority of the jokes fall flat or have been done before so many times they are not funny anymore. One thing That's My Boy does incredibly well, technique-wise, is when a scene is playing out between two people that may be serious, or awkward, but will inevitably have a punchline the frame will cut to reveal additional people were in the room/area listening to the entire thing. It may not sound funny when written out but the cut to reveal the additional people actually becomes the punchline--you laugh because what just happened was not appropriate for the others to hear, and they did. That is the best part about That's My Boy, when the humor catches you by surprise. Having Vanilla Ice be Donny's right-hand man is funny as well, if you know about Vanilla Ice. You'll even catch some other has-been stars throughout the movie since they were all Donny's friends growing up. Aside from a couple laugh-out-loud moments the humor in That's My Boy got lost in the repetitive nature of the film's formula. Adam Sandler needs a new schtick, and he needs it quickly before he fades away.
Product Placement in films is very common and usually works under the radar so the audience subliminally sees the product being used or in the background but it is non intrusive to the viewing experience. Unless of course the movie is That's My Boy. Donny is a consistent beer drinker, and always has one handy on his person, in a bag, or even tucked in his sock. Donny's beer of choice is Budweiser. Always Budweiser. If you by chance happen to forget Donny likes Budweiser beer cinematographer Brandon Trost will remind you by always having the can or bottle of Budweiser framed perfectly on the label, and holding steady long enough for you to read it. Product Placement happens, and will continue to as long as movies are made, but Budweiser may as well have funded That's My Boy, the brand is featured enough to warrant producer credit.