With its revolting premise, twisted humor and forced conclusion, That’s My Boy is the worst film of Adam Sandler’s career.
Comedian, actor, and filmmaker Adam Sandler has made many films over his long career. Virtually all of his films have received mixed reviews from critics and audiences, with 2011 Jack and Jill being almost universally despised. Called the epitome of corporate greed at best and a terrible remake of Ed Wood Glen or Glenda at worst, the comedy carried the brunt of critical hate, resulting in a much worse film going unrecognized to this day. Although less poorly received than the decried Pixels, go ahead and I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry2012 He’s my boy is Adam Sandler’s worst film.
Despite its revolting basic concept, He’s my boy was widely criticized for a lack of chemistry between its two leads. In the film, Sandler plays Donnie Berger, a tiresome and perpetually irresponsible man-child who became a father at the age of 13. Evidently a victim of statutory rape, young Donny (played by Justin Weaver) is launched into pseudo-stardom following the “affair” with his teacher and the beings who spawned Andy Samberg’s Todd as a result. . Much of the film centers around the two men’s efforts to reconnect after Donny’s abysmal parenthood tears them apart. And while that sounds like a good recipe for touching, intelligent drama, He’s my boy doesn’t offer such a glimpse, feeling closer to a 2-hour beer commercial than anything resembling a movie.
When discussing the topics of sexual assault, premature fatherhood and the resulting trauma, framing is paramount. Far from the creepy and inappropriate abuse of power that it really is, however, Donny’s “romance” with his 8th grade teacher, Mary McGarricle (played by mother-daughter duo Eva Amurri and Susan Sarandon at different times) is presented as both a true love story and a source of laughter. While defenders of He’s my boy attempt to contextualize this plot point as a subtle satire, an episode of South Park did this much better. Unlike the acclaimed series, the Sean Anders-directed comedy features no logical voice of reason in the face of sheer madness. While Ms. McGarricle is deservedly punished, Donny’s victimization is barely referenced and the character remains a “hero” throughout.
Despite receiving positive reinforcement from nearly everyone he meets, as an adult, Donny’s life is undeniably in shambles. Spending most of his time at a seedy strip club — featuring single, unhappy dancers as the subjects of mockery — Sandler’s character owes the IRS a huge amount of money. With his days of undeserved fame far behind him, Donny is broke. And when he’s presented with the opportunity to “reunite his family” publicly for a hefty paycheck, the film’s ill-conceived plot is set in motion.
Despite his difficult upbringing, Donny’s son made a name for himself. Having taken the name Todd Peterson in a wise effort to distance himself from his parentage, Samberg’s character has a successful career as a stockbroker and a beautiful fiancée named Jaime (played by Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl notoriety). When Donny crashes their pre-wedding festivities, various diversions involving racism, blatant toxic masculinity, public intoxication, assault with a deadly weapon, and vanilla ice cream ensue. But in the midst of the chaos, He’s my boy attempts warm moments between father and son.
However, as audiences witness Donny systematically destroying his adult son’s life for personal gain, those moments fall flat. True to the formula revealed by the Liar, Donny’s true intentions are revealed after Todd accepts a visit to the prison with his mother. After Todd rightfully reports Donny, the heartbroken dad discovers a terrible secret about Jaime. Seemingly desperate to shed light on every taboo imaginable, He’s my boy also includes an incestuous relationship between Jaime de Meester and his younger brother, Chad (played by Milo Ventimiglia).
After the marriage is annulled mid-ceremony, Todd’s transformation into an irresponsible degenerate is presented as overwhelmingly positive. He and Donny fully reconcile, with the former claiming his first name: Han Solo Berger. Against all odds, Donny earns the money to pay off his debt, and the film ends with a truly disturbing message about the importance of allowing neglectful family into your life, regardless of the personal cost. Although it didn’t receive the vitriol it deserved upon its release, He’s my boy is definitely Adam Sandler’s worst film.
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