- Follow us@AustinChronicle
Adam Sandler is clearly having a good time in this movie – the umpteenth star vehicle he’s made since leaving Saturday Night Live. In That’s My Boy, Sandler doesn’t seem to care if we like Donny Berger, the loutish character he plays with a looseness far removed from any worries about propriety. Donny is an affront to good taste, and Sandler seems to revel in the opportunity to go full affrontal. I won’t deny that I let loose with several hearty laughs, even though they were too few and far between. But don’t say you weren’t warned if you find yourself ready to flee by the time Donny starts jerking off to a picture of an old woman. The film’s narrative climax proves to be even more twisted.
However, if you expect That’s My Boy to be the Bad Dad equivalent of Bad Santa, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Sandler can’t quite adopt that same cynical edge, instead favoring corny and sentimental resolutions to untenable predicaments. Stepping out for a change with a different director than his usual go-to helmer, Dennis Dugan, Sandler shows signs of reaching beyond his comfort zone, but Sean Anders (working from a screenplay by David Caspe) directs with little style or sense of structure. That’s My Dad is bloated and stretched to a nearly two-hour length, which includes several sequences that are thoroughly expendable. The casting of Sandler and Andy Samberg as father and son is inspired, as is the casting of Eva Amurri Martino and her real-life mother, Susan Sarandon, as versions of the same character played nearly 30 years apart. But Tony Orlando and Vanilla Ice (playing himself) might prefer a return to their years of underexposure than the attention they’ll get from their appearances here. That’s My Boy needs no paternity test; its DNA is evident. So is its spunk.