Before “That’s My Boy” hits its title sequence and opening credits, it spends time reveling in the grossness of its own setup. Donny Berger has sex with his math teacher and she ends up pregnant, which makes him a father at thirteen. Yes, thirteen. The woman is a junior high school math teacher. And what’s really unsettling is the fact that the film can’t just imply the act behind a closed door. We have to hear the thirteen year-old grunting, and shouting. And this happens multiple times, until they are exposed in front of the entire school. And how does the film choose to celebrate this revelation? Donny becomes an overnight celebrity, appearing on talk shows and magazine covers.
This is a strange situation given the current state of our country. Currently, there is a high-profile case going on involving a former coach of a prestigious university. This reviewer’s own school system came under fire just a couple of years back when it was revealed that a teacher(who is now in prison) had sex with a student. Interestingly, it was no laughing matter. But “That’s My Boy” looks at it from a different point of view. Sadly, it plays into an awful stereotype. Since it was a male that had sex with a female teacher, it is something to be celebrated and admired. If it was a female student with a male teacher, the woman would be called a whore and the teacher would be called a rapist. The teacher in this movie is still a rapist, but the movie somehow forgets that when it’s too busy putting Donny on a pedestal. It would be a little different if this device was just used to setup the story, and then the story moved on. But the fact that the film celebrates it so much(and uses it to make jokes later on) is slightly disgusting.
Aside from its sexual molestation setup, the film is painfully unfunny. Early on, the actors seem to pause after delivering their lines like they are waiting for the laughs to subside. Well, perhaps the film needs a laugh track added, because there was nothing but crickets during those pauses. It’s becoming harder and harder to understand how Adam Sandler could sit down and watch this and think that it’s good, or even funny. Sandler extends his acting skills to the point of using a funny accent, and the R rating gives his character the opportunity to get pervasive with the foul language. The first time the viewer meets the adult Donny he’s visiting his accountant, and it’s almost like Sandler hasn’t acted a day in his life. Fortunately, it gets better, but it’s almost as if Sandler forgot how to act in that opening scene.
Sure, Donny’s a scumbag, but in this movie, he fits in perfectly. All the characters are either horrible people or one-note comedy cliches. A horny grandmother? Who hasn’t seen that before? Donny’s son Todd is such a whiner and a pushover that it’s hard to feel sorry for him, even though he did get the short end of the stick in life. Todd’s fiancé(Leighton Meester) doesn’t do much else than shout at him and bark orders. And toward the end of the film there is an inexplicable cameo by a very well-known actress. It’s nearly impossible to fathom how she got roped into this mess, but she’s only in one scene so the tarnish comes right off.
“That’s My Boy” has maybe one or two jokes worth a chuckle, but that’s it…and to say one or two is probably being generous. The screenplay substitutes profanity for jokes, and half the time it’s hard to say if there is supposed to be a punchline with much of the dialogue. This film makes “Grown Ups” look great by comparison. This and last year’s “Just Go With It” might be neck-and-neck when it comes to the level of sucky that they possess. But this film brings in James Caan and then gives him a ridiculous Irish accent, which may give it the top spot. This film is gross, and grossly unfunny.