That's My Boy (R) ★★★

Review Date: June 15th, 2012

The magical R-rating is both a gift and a curse to Adam Sandler's signature brand of lowbrow humor. In That's My Boy, the comedian returns to the dim-witted roots that made him a star in early outings like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore (complete with high-pitched, mushmouth accent), but with a ramped up "ew" factor. Unrestrained, Sandler piles on as many expletives and gross-out scenarios as a two-hour movie can hold — and it works out quite well. With costar Samberg nailing the disgusted straight man role, Sandler's penchant for acting like a fool is enhanced by the sick stylings of director Sean Anders (Sex Drive) and only occasionally teetering into truly offensive territory. Laughs aren't guaranteed, but the movie provokes (which is a big step up from Jack and Jill).

Back in the '80s, Donny had a secret relationship with his teacher Ms. McGarricle that resulted in a son, Han Solo (he's a middle schooler, what do you expect?). The torrid affair put McGarricle in jail, Donny into celebrity tabloid spotlight and Han Solo in the hands of a tween father. Thirty years later, everyone's screwed up: Donny (Adam Sandler) is a drunk on the brink of jail time for tax evasion, McGarricle's still in jail, and Han Solo (Andy Samberg), now "Todd," is a successful number-cruncher with severe social issues. On the weekend of Todd's wedding, Donny reenters his life, hoping to bring revive their relationship and reunite him with his mother — that is, on camera, so Donny can make $50,000 from a gossip TV show and stay out of the slammer. Posing as Todd's long-lost best friend, Donny stirs up trouble, becoming buddies with Todd's friends and family and acting like a imbecile.

The wedding setup is overdone, but always prime for comedy: plenty for a numbskull to screw up, logical progression (there's a wedding at the end!) and a bachelor party scene to squeeze in the most disgusting bits and have them make sense. That's My Boy makes the most of its conventions — including what we all know and expect from a Sandler comedy — by continually one-upping itself. After a night of heavy drinking at the local strip club/omelette bar that results in do-it-yourself ear piercing and robbing a convenience store with Vanilla Ice, Todd returns home to expel the night's worth of drinking all over his fiancee's wedding dress. Then he makes love to the dress. Then his fiancee (Leighton Meester) wakes up to find the dress. Then it goes even further than one would care to imagine. Grossed out yet? Amazingly, lower-than-low brow material is handled with clever timing and great delivery. It's just that the foundation is bodily fluids.

That's My Boy falters when it throws in gags that serve zero purpose to the story. Strange racist humor, a mentally retarded bar patron played by Nick Swardson (a Sandler mainstay), random allusions to Todd Bridges' drug habits — barrel-scraping one-offs that have nothing to do with the movie. At two hours, the movie needs slimming and the fat is apparent. Thankfully, the main ensemble goes to great lengths to make the hard R comedy click, with Sandler and Samberg playing well off each other (although Samberg doesn't have the making of a leading man after this movie), and SNL alums like Will Forte, Rachel Dratch, and Ana Gasteyer driving by to bring the funny. Even Vanilla Ice's extended cameo fits the anything-goes tone, playing a version of himself that befriended Donny in his celebrity days. Now he works at an ice skating rink.

After a few lame ducks, That's My Boy is a return to form for Sandler. It wavers in quality, but it has energy and color. A cash-in this is not, and for any\ Sandler fan with a stomach for hardcore bathroom humor, it's a must-see.