Why R-Rated Antics Turn Audiences Off
Adam Sandler is loved and treasured by modern mainstream audiences because
of his wholesome roles in films like "50 First Dates" and "Mr.
Deeds." Though relying on PG-13-level humor, these films and many
other Happy Madison productions bring a true heart to the table, and his egghead
characters win audiences over nearly every time. After all, there's a reason
the guy makes $20 million a movie. But his latest film, "That's My Boy," is tanking, and some
seem curious why this happened. Is this the death of Sandler's star power? No. It
Sandler's latest romp has him starring as Donny Berger, a mullet-wearing, beer-guzzling,
sexually crude, middle-aged low life who became famous for having a sexual
relationship with his teacher when he was 13. The affair ended in a pregnancy, and Donny hasn't spoken to his son (Andy Samberg) since the young man turned 18. But now Donny needs his well-to-do son to help him pay back taxes because, in his own words,
"I thought they took that out automatically!"
"That's My Boy" opened to a mere $13.5 million over the weekend, whereas Sandler's comedies usually pull in at least $20 million - or much more. What's the difference? Most Sandler comedies stop
short of jokes about child molestation, incest, sex with grandmothers, etc.
The Sandler the public demands, and rightly deserves, is the man we see
smiling his way through films like "Grown Ups" and "Just Go With
It." These films are delightful and serve a great purpose, and Sandler
should be proud of them, but any Sandler fan knows that there is more than what
meets the eye. The comic actor has always had a deeper layer only hinted at in his
mainstream movies--the layer of the ticking time bomb. His
brain ticks and ticks away until he feels an F-word is needed or a mental outburst. This Sandler, that most audiences only get a
taste of in the majority of his roles, may be comedian's true self.
This other side of Sandler is obviously shown in his more offbeat work that
never connects with a mainstream audience. Whether it's going slightly
serious for films like "Punch Drunk Love" or "Funny People"
or going completely bat shit crazy for films like "That's My Boy" or
"Little Nicky," we get a glimpse at his pure, unhinged talent. And it's crazy and great ... all wrapped in one.
So, it's predictable that Sandler's latest wouldn't connect with his usual
audience. In was more obvious when I was in the theater rolling on the floor
laughing as older couples walked out of the theater shaking their heads in
either same or disgust or both.
Is it for everyone? No. Films like "That's My Boy" and
"Grandma's Boy" are only made because films like "50 First
Dates" can actually come close to pleasing everyone (critics not
included). If you don't think James Caan (equipped with a terrible Irish
accent) fighting Samberg isn't funny or Allen Covert telling his monkey
not to judge him isn't funny, then clearly the dark comedy of the comedian
Sandler and his Happy Madison production house are not for you. Stick to
Sandler may turn most audiences off when he's finding humor in a teacher
molesting a kid or becoming a more serious version of himself for the much
misunderstood "Funny People," but we feel in those films that there
are no deeper layers being hidden. Everything is on the table, both comedy and drama.
These more offbeat films bring both.
Even "That's My Boy" provides us with those comedic and dramatic
moments. The film may be off the wall in its comedy and see no line not worth crossing, but deep down in that immaturity is the pure heart of mature men.
"That's My Boy" provides poignant moments of father-son dilemmas and
bonding. The only issue is that most people won't sit past the first rape joke
to find out.
The point is this: next time you're purchasing that ticket, know which
Sandler you're getting or what kind of movie it is. Is it a film that lays
everything on the table where we get the truly dark, immature comedian, or is it
the nice wholesome actor we all know and love? It's true for Sandler and many
others. Sandler will never convince the majority of people that he's a great
actor or that incest can be funny, but a select few can find themselves amused
at the idea of the films that try and push those kinds of ideas.
In Andrew Breitbart's
amazing life, he found humor even in offensive fare like "Grandma's Boy." And I found myself laughing throughout "That's My Boy" even though it was crude and pointless. Just laugh your ass off, people, no matter what you're laughing at.