That’s My Boy (review)
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): despise Sandler, and this looked even worse than his usual garbage
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
I don’t know what I was thinking. Why would I subject myself to this? Adam Sander’s pedophilia and child-abuse comedy? I knew — I knew — it was going to be dreadful. Abysmal, even. So why did I bother? Was it the eternal cinematic optimist in me? I mean, I’m open to an Adam Sandler movie making me laugh. It’s happened before: I’m not ashamed to admit that I found You Don’t Mess With the Zohan surprisingly funny and unexpectedly sweet.
But it was not to be in this case. That’s My Boy isn’t as bad as the trailer made it look — it’s worse. This may be the most repulsive movie I’ve ever seen. Seventh-grader Donny (Justin Weaver) is repeatedly raped by teacher Miss McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino: Saved!, The Banger Sisters), but you’d barely guess a crime had been committed here. Sure, McGarricle is sent to prison for 30 years, but the film treats this like it’s a travesty, a miscarriage of justice, for Donny and Miss McGarricle were soulmates — soulmates, I tell you — and Donny is treated like a hero not only by his schoolmates and even *gag* other teachers but by the entire society. He was a pop culture champion in the 1990s, had a TV movie made about his life story, buddied up with the likes of Vanilla Ice. And now, today, Donny (Sandler: Jack and Jill, Just Go with It) is a tragic figure: alone, alcoholic, incapable of forming an adult relationship. No, not because he has apparently never recovered from the confusing and horrific sexual abuse he was subjected to as a child. But because fickle pop culture moved on — just like it did for Vanilla Ice!
This is like the evil Mirror Universe version of Ted. Everything that that film got right about GenX nostalgia and holding on to comforting childhood things, this movie twists into something horrific and scarring and vile.
Who conceives of such an atrocity? Is screenwriter David Caspe himself a pedophile who thinks it’s okay for adults to force themselves sexually on children who are unable to give consent? I’m not being flip: I simply don’t see how the question can be avoided. Doesn’t participation in this story condone what it depicts so uncritically? Is director Sean Anders, who made the only slightly less repulsive Sex Drive (yet also the witty indie mockumentary Never Been Thawed), sympathetic to pedophiles? Is Susan Sarandon (Cloud Atlas, Arbitrage), who appears here as the older McGarricle? Does Adam Sandler think adults raping children is awesome? Because there is no way — no way at all — that anything here can be construed as averse to the idea of adult women having sex with tween boys. This is a celebration of such a perverse “relationship.”
Yet even as it celebrates, it doles out its own form of dehumanizing abuse. For this isn’t just Donny’s story: it’s also the story of Todd (Andy Samberg: What’s Your Number?, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), the unfortunate offspring of Donny and Miss McGarricle’s depraved intimacies. Todd was also the victim of sustained abuse, for he was left with the child Donny and Donny’s abusive father to be raised, because it’s “funny” for abused children to raising children. (The appalling insensitivity to the real horrors of child abuse may be the most abhorrent thing about this disgusting excuse for a comedy. There is not a single speck of human feeling in this.) All of the now-adult Todd’s neuroses, which are perfectly understandable considering the hell his life has been, are held up for ridicule. The entire movie is constructed around inventing outrageous scenarios to kick Todd in the teeth and sabotage all his attempts to claim for himself a healthy, happy life, represented most notably by his impending marriage to Jamie (Leighton Meester: The Oranges, Country Strong). Todd, a genuinely nice man, is mocked and derided at every turn by the film, while Donny — who of course crashes Todd’s wedding years after Todd removed himself from Donny’s life — cannot do anything too crude or too obnoxious or too just-plain-stupid to make everyone around him find him utterly charming and want to fuck him instantly.
The random grossouts and nonstop vulgarity are so typically Sandler that they’re not worth noting. But to set up Donny as, in the end, a voice of respectability who can lecture others on morality and what love really is takes a level of gall perhaps unprecedented in fiction. How could anyone have imagined that any of this was less than irredeemably ugly?