Volume 92, Issue 37
Tuesday, November 10, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Photo © Jon Farmer
I TOLD YOU TO GO DURING HALF TIME! Adam Sandler and coach Henry Winkler watch on the sidelines as their new movie, The Waterboy, gets sacked.
By Craig Mazin
Critiquing The Waterboy is an exercise in futility. No matter what is said, few will be convinced.
Those who think Adam Sandler is an idiot with no talent would cringe at the inference to any of his "cretinous" movies as even remotely funny. Those who feel Sandler is pure comic genius respond to any criticism of their hero with accusations of snobby pretension.
As usual, reality falls somewhere in the middle. The Waterboy is your average stupid comedy, loaded with enough sight gags and parody to raise some chuckles out of even the stuffiest shirt. But the ultimate goal of this type of film is to render people incapacitated with laughter. This is the relative failure of The Waterboy the rather spotty script makes it unlikely anyone will have appropriately sore stomach muscles when they leave the theatre.
The Waterboy is Bobby Boucher, a childlike 31-year-old water dispenser for a college football team, who suddenly channels the abuse he receives from players and coaches into an uncanny ability to tackle like a Mack truck. But while Boucher finds success on the football field, he can't seem to fit in among his teammates or keep his psycho-protective Mama (Kathy Bates) off his back.
More than any of Sandler's other movies, The Waterboy views like a long Saturday Night Live skit. Sandler's approximation of Boucher draws its inspiration directly from his popular but imbecilic SNL character, "Canteen Boy." Admittedly, Sandler's self-deprecation is one of his major strengths as a comedian. But, as evidenced by the superior Happy Gilmore, Sandler's characters betray plenty of vulnerability even when he plays an ill-tempered boor. When he plays a simpering half-wit like in The Waterboy, the preciousness is difficult to bear for an entire hour and a half.
Surprisingly, The Waterboy functions well as a sports movie. The sheer volume of the hitting is especially awesome. When Sandler levels another big stiff you can almost feel the theatre seats rattling underneath you. However, the tradition of athletics is not immune to Sandler's sarcasm. College football is one of many American institutions which begs for mockery and The Waterboy nails its target often, roasting everyone from cliche-spewing television announcers to grade-fixing coaches.
If Rob Schnieder's resoundingly unfunny cameo is ignored, the supporting cast is quite strong. Both Henry Winkler (Happy Days' Fonz) as the manic-depressive head coach and Bates, as the domineering Mama, perform credibly in underwritten roles. Faruiza Balk is a screen-chewing firecracker as Sandler's trashy love interest. And it would be tragic not to make mention of ex-New York Giant Lawrence Taylor's brief but hilarious scene as a motivational speaker for children.
The modest strengths of The Waterboy fizzle away when it all swells up into a big syrupy mess at the end of the movie. Whether or not it's a parody of similarly mushy scenes from other movies is irrelevant. Either way, it creates nausea. A dumb comedy should be just that a dumb comedy.
Next time Adam, let's have less speeches about loving your mama and more footballs to the groin.
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