The movie begins with an affair between a junior high math teacher (Eva Amurri Martino) and her student. They are discovered bonking at a school assembly, she gets pregnant and a thirty year prison sentence, and he cashes in on his fame as the kid who lived out “the ultimate teenage boy’s fantasy.”
It’s at this point you should really just stop and turn your attention towards something more cultivated, Planet Earth perhaps or Ken Burns’s The Civil War. Both are on Netflix but, as the streaming service recently announced, subscribers have spent half a billion hours watching Adam Sandler movies. That’s eleven zeroes. There are real problems in this world. Donald Trump is president. Why are we doing this to ourselves? I confess I’ve contributed to that total, though in an attempt to understand this part of the cultural zeitgeist. It’s an effort that evolved into ritual hate watching, and I haven’t been able to stop. But I may have to take my own advice and forgo future screenings, especially after latest this assault on my good senses.
By now I’ve lost track of which Sandler film is most offensive. Each one feels like a worthy titleholder. That’s My Kid makes a pretty good case for the top honor since it is premised on child abuse. Besides that, it just wades in juvenile muck. The “lucky” teen – he gets a hero’s welcome from friends and strangers alike – grows up to be a whiny-voiced Donny Berger (Sandler), a man with nothing to show for except a $43,000 tax bill and fifteen expired minutes of fame. In order to avoid jail time, he strikes up a deal with a tabloid TV producer who agrees to give Donny the money if he can finagle a reunion between him, his son, and his still-jailed lover (Susan Sarandon, Amurri Martino’s mother and veteran Motherlover).
Donny immediately sets off to find his lost offspring, Han Solo Berger (Andy Samberg), only to discover that he’s changed his name to Todd Peterson in order to shed any connection to his embarrassing past. The high flying hedge fund manager has also concocted a story about his parents’ death, making any reunion an awkward affair, like the one that happens when Donny crashes Todd’s wedding weekend. A crass, drunken father is the last thing Todd needs as he’s about to marry Jamie (Leighton Meester) and finally get a family of his own. But rather than reject this intruder, everyone from Todd’s boss (Tony Orlando) to his fiancée’s intense Marine brother (Milo Ventimiglia) embraces Donny’s vulgarity, much to Todd’s surprise since he still hasn’t been able to win many of them over.
The jokes, if we’re going to call them that, come at you rapid fire. It’s a good technique if you don’t trust your humor to make much of an impact. So the film tries to distract you by lobbing one bit of crazy after another, lest you pause and consider how lewd and unnecessary it all is. One running gag is Donny’s sexual attraction to the boss’s octogenarian mother. There’s also an extended bachelor party sequence that starts with some harassment at a spa, spills into a strip club that Donny frequents, continues with public urination and other hooligan behavior, and ends with Todd making love to Jamie’s dress. Some gags about the Asian help get thrown in too because why the hell not?
Buried beneath all of this is a story about a broken father and son. If you find room in your heart, you may find Donny’s overtures of reconciliation genuine and even touching. Of course you will also have to accept that his paternal instincts are all about toughening up his son into an alpha male and mocking Todd when he doesn’t live up to those expectations. I’m not buying any of it though, and as much as I like Samberg slightly goofy demeanor, Sandler’s shtick is just too overpowering.
Prod: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo
Dir: Sean Anders
Writer: David Caspe
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Vanilla Ice, Milo Ventimiglia, Peggy Stewart, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, Susan Sarandon, Eva Amurri Martino, Justin Weaver, Ciara, Luenell, James Caan, Rachel Dratch
Time: 114 min
Country: United States