Isn't Hollywood funny? They wait until almost the end of Football season to release the "Feel-good hit of the summer". Of course, I'm talking about "The Waterboy", starring Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler, Jerry Reed, Fairuza Balk and a whole host of unique supporting characters. This is one to see if you need an hour and a half of laughing so hard your eyes leak tears, or if you'd even just like 90+ minutes of that sort of thing..
Let me say this before we get to the heart of this… I'm not an Adam Sandler fan, never have been. I resist getting dragged into the theatre to see one of his films like you resist going to eat at a restaurant that serves a type of food you hate. I always expect to go in, chuckles humorlessly a few times, and then leave feeling unfulfilled, rather like going to see House II. After this film, however, I have to step over to the other side of the "field" as it were, and say that I really liked this one, and Adam Sandler in it..
Sandler plays Bobby Boucher, a Louisiana bayou born and raised lad, overprotected and "home-schooled" by his Mama (played by Kathy Bates) until he's become a 31-year old, socially inept, stuttering loner. He's been the waterboy for the National Champion Louisiana Cougars for 18 years, and is fired by (pardon my french) asshole head coach Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed). Numbed by his firing, he heads to the "other" school in town, South Central Louisiana State University, where Coach Klein (Henry Winkler), left shell-shocked by a football trauma in his past, tries to coach a team of (to quote the 2nd Blues Brothers movie) "wanna-be players" in their attempt to stop a 40-game losing streak..
After being told by Coach Klein to "fight back and stand up for yourself", Bobby learns the power of all that anger he's been saving up for 18 years, and becomes the SCLSU Mud Dogs' secret weapon, setting a new college record for most sacks in one game in his first time out. However, he hasn't told his Mama that he's playing "Foosball" yet, and he's attracted the eye of the local juvenile delinquent Vicky Vallencourt (Fairuza Balk) which spells trouble for Bobby..
The Waterboy delivers comedy, slapstick and otherwise, with a plot (a surprising but pleasant find in an Adam Sandler film) that makes you care about the characters. It also doesn't fall into the stereotype of casting the "dumb kid" as actually being dumb as opposed to merely sheltered. This is where the film won me over, by letting Sandler's character actually improve intellectually as well as socially and physically. Being a professor, I tend to dig that sort of subtext in a film, and I'm happy to have found it in this one..
Remember I mentioned the host of unique supporting characters? I want to mention a few by name. Rob Schneider playes the one-phrase wonder "You can do eet!" who turns out to be a big supporter. Chris Howard (brother to director Ron Howard) plays your typical small-school die-hard fan, at every game no matter how dismally they're playing. Jonathan Loughran (Lyle) plays a cross-eyed, gravel-sounding voice of reason, and when he does get a chance to speak, it's a fine companion to the general laughs of the film. The list goes on, but I can't mention them all here (for both lack of time and hard-drive space). Just keep your eye on the guys BEHIND the main actors, there are some notable performances there too!
Overall, I thought this movie was hysterical! I laughed so hard, I literally was wiping the tears out of my eyes. It's received very little critical praise, but it's gone nuts at the box-office, which says that it's appealing to a wide variety of audiences. There is surprisingly little vulgarity and practically no sex whatsoever (other than Balk's little off-camera peepshow which lasts about 5 seconds), so it's a relatively safe thing to take your middel-school and up kids to see, plus you'll enjoy it as well, I'm sure..
I give this film an A. Finally, I'm willing to concede that Adam Sandler is actually the innovative and entertaining comedian my younger brother has always insisted him to be. Thanks, Jeremy, I get it now.