If only Adam Sandler had elected to not appear in the latest Adam Sandler movie, “That’s My Boy” might have amounted to something greater.
The premise of the comedy is wickedly compelling, and the flashback scenes are hilarious. But, unfortunately, Sandler spoils the party because he can’t create a convincing character.
Sandler plays Donny, a 40-something loser who gained fame in junior high when he impregnated his hottie teacher (Eva Amurri Martino). This sent her to prison and saddled him with a baby boy.
Now his estranged grown son (Andy Samberg in his first post-“SNL” role) has changed his name to Todd (Donny thought it would be cooler to christen him Han Solo), gotten rich as a financial genius and is about to be married.
He’s also a social misfit whose upbringing by Donny has scarred him emotionally (he always carries an extra pair of “security undies”) and physically (he sports a grotesque New Kids on the Block tattoo).
Donny crashes Todd’s impending wedding, and the men spend the weekend attempting to connect with the bride’s family and reconnect with each other.
The first five minutes of “That’s My Boy” alone are funnier than the entirety of Sandler’s previous three movies, which reached a nadir with last year’s Razzie-sweeping “Jack and Jill.”
One can see how rookie screenwriter David Caspe (creator of the ABC series “Happy Endings”) ran with the premise of “what happens to the kid who gets famous for sleeping with his teacher?”
It’s a concept best pursued in a broad, R-rated comedy, and the film revels in material designed to be offensive. In an early scene, the young Donny (amusing newcomer Justin Weaver) and his teacher are caught in a compromising position at his graduation ceremony. Behind him a banner reads: “Some have greatness thrust upon them.”
But Weaver soon gives way to Sandler. Donning a forced Boston accent and phony mullet, the comedian struggles to move his crude protagonist beyond cartoon proportions. It’s impossible to swallow that Donny is such a ladies’ man; he’s unreal and unappealing.
At least Sandler doesn’t resort to the mumbled sleepwalking he did throughout “Grown Ups” and “Just Go With It.” He seems to actually be trying this time, yet he is armed only with meager skills.
“That’s My Boy” could have been much improved with a legitimate sleazy charmer in the lead — picture Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn, for instance. Sandler should have gotten relegated to a supporting role, working alongside other pop culture anomalies such as rapper Vanilla Ice and Jets football coach Rex Ryan, who extend a dizzy energy to this jagged comedy.