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The Waterboy
1998 - PG-13 - 90 Mins.
Director: Frank Coraci
Producer: Jack Giarraputo
Written By: Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler, Rob Schneider, Fairuza Balk
Review by: John Ulmer
   

So this is what I get for making Going Overboard!
I like to think I'm not too hard on comedies. In fact, I know I'm not. Some people might call me an idiot for recommending trash like "Dumb and Dumber" and "Happy Gilmore," but all I ask for in a comedy is some laughs. Not always very original ones; not enormously large ones. Just genuine laughs, which both those films provided for me, despite their shallow nature.

I didn't laugh very much at "The Waterboy," and when I did, it was the forced kind--the sort of laughter you hear when you're in a theater watching a disaster such as "The Hot Chick," and you can practically *feel* the entire audience leaning forward in their seats, eager to laugh, *wanting* to laugh, at anything remotely funny. And when they do, it's at a joke that's not very funny at all, and you know that everyone is laughing because they need to laugh, they want to laugh, they have to laugh, and not because they are simply following the human instinct of opening mouths and emitting high-pitched repetitive guffaws.

Okay, I like Adam Sandler. Actually, I don't really like him; I just don't mind him very much. He made me smile in "Saturday Night Live" (despite his inclined nature to repeat the same roles and mannerisms in various skits) and he made me laugh in "Happy Gilmore" (perhaps the true start of his nice-misunderstood-loser roles). But he made me laugh. So there. I said it.

He didn't make me laugh in "The Waterboy," at all, and I wasn't even amused by the film. Even "Billy Madison" (which I did not recommend), at the very least, amused me. I wasn't as impressed as I was during "Happy Gilmore," but it amused me.

I am not amused by a character that seems almost intentionally unfunny, or a film that recycles all the oldest formulas and presents the "twists" to us as something fresh and new. Sandler's Bobby Boucher, a 30-something Louisiana football water boy, is quite possibly one of the most annoying characters of all time. As soon as I heard him speak, someone next to me said, "He isn't going to talk like that throughout the whole movie, is he?" I crossed my fingers, hoping it was some sort of joke, but indeed he *did* talk that way throughout the entire movie--and when everything was over, I was unmoved, unshaken, unstirred. Un-everything.

Boucher lives with his mother (Kathy Bates) in a "Deliverance"-reminiscent house in Louisiana. "Momma," as Bobby refers to her, does not want her son playin' any "foosball." So he's the team water boy. He works for free, laboring for hours and being the blunt end of many jokes delivered by the cruel jocks. The town's team, The Cougars, really stink, and when the coach (Henry Winkler in a thankless role) sees Bobby get mad at one of the football players and knock him out due to years of repressed anger, he decides to offer the aggressive kid a spot on his team. Sure enough, soon comes stardom and fame, and every time Bobby is told to knock out a QB, he simply pictures someone that makes him mad (e.g. Momma). How sad.

As Dr. Seuss might put it, "I did not like 'The Waterboy,' not one little bit."

People don't go to see Adam Sandler movies for clever and witty jokes. They go for a bit of cheap entertainment. Coming from a big "SNL" fan, he's simply no Steve Martin or Bill Murray, and he's not even as funny as recent-star Will Ferrell. But by now he has proven to us all that he is capable of playing the same characters, over and over and over again.

The humor is extremely infantile, even considering that this is a Sandler vehicle. After a while I just stopped trying to laugh. Kathy Bates has the best scenes of the film, as Bobby's over-protective mother, but even Bates fails to make anything gold come out of "The Waterboy." It's a sorry mess of a movie, recycling everything we've seen before, minus the laughs and heart of "Happy Gilmore" and the slight amusement of "Billy Madison."

I know that a lot of critics jump on a bandwagon when it comes to Adam Sandler's films, and they'll usually admit that they laughed when pestered enough, but they just didn't want to give his film a recommendation. Well, I saw "The Waterboy" with an open mind, as an easy-to-please film viewer, and it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I had to wonder: How many times must Sandler ground the same formula into a recipe? This time he didn't ground it quite enough, and it's not as tasty as it should have been.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

 
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