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.
Talk about pressure. When LAPD hostage negotiator extraordinaire Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) has a bad day lives are lost--and it is after one particularly bad day that Talley decides he's had it with the job. Plagued by guilt he relocates his family and becomes the police chief of a sleepy northern California town. But it's about to be woken up. Corrupt accountant Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) and his two kids--teenager Jennifer (Michelle Horn) and grade schooler Tommy (Jimmy Bennett)--are taken hostage in their house after a carjacking attempt by a trio of young punks goes awry. Talley is forced to step in once again as the hostage negotiator. Why you may ask since he is now just a lowly police man? Because it turns out Talley's family is being held captive by Walter's superiors who need to get something very important out of the house. They demand the seasoned Talley take control of the situation before things get really ugly. And they do get ugly.
I'm sure Willis would say he agreed to play yet another reluctant hero whose family is in danger because the concept was intriguing. But we all know he probably made Hostage for the money. However Willis is still an appealing actor and a tried and true action star. He infuses Talley with his usual quiet strong demeanor which inevitably turns tortured--and then revengeful--when things go badly. Another standout includes Ben Foster (HBO's Six Feet Under) who does a nice job as Mars the most demented and brutal of the three kidnappers. Not only is the cold-blooded Mars on the edge but he's also some kind of a super delinquent who's able to knock out police cars professional hit men and the like with ease. Scary what they teach kids these days. Willis' daughter Rumer also gets some screen time as Talley's sullen daughter--but since she doesn't get to say much the jury is still out on whether she's inherited any of her parents' acting skills.
Hostage unfortunately takes a good idea and ruins it. To his credit French director Florent Siri who is best known in his native country for crime thrillers seems to understand about building the tension. The Smiths' isolated fortress situated in the hills is a perfect place to piece together the action-thriller ingredients: the shell-shocked cop trying not to repeat his past mistakes; the novice in-over-their-heads kidnappers lead by a trigger-happy psychopath; the resourceful and brave young hostages on the inside; and the menacingly ominous outside influences. But Hostage ends up taking these well-placed elements and running them into the ground. The film starts to drag in its logistical inconsistencies. Why don't the corporate baddies just come in and blow everyone away from the beginning? They obviously have the means to do so. But no. We are instead subjected to Willis running around trying to outsmart everyone natch while having heartbreaking conversations with the precocious little boy inside the house. When things finally do come to a head we are left with a severely over-the-top overtly bloody climax.
Tommy (Donnie Montemarano) has yet again been released from prison. The night he gets out he hooks up with his old buddy and onetime partner in crime Mic (Vinny Argiro) who wants to go legit. Mic's been working at a seedy adult porn shop to save money for the two of them to get to Vegas and become casino dealers; he even bought two one-way tickets on a Greyhound departing the next morning. Tommy is having none of it--he'd rather pull off a couple more jobs and quadruple what little money Mic's hoarded. The men start the evening off in Mic's little room at the Golden Eagle hotel a filthy decrepit flophouse on Los Angeles' skid row whose seemingly permanent tenants include Mr. Maynard a 1930s tap dancing star (real-life tap dancer Fayard Nicholas) and an old bum named Sylvester (Sam Moore of '60s soul singing duo Sam & Dave fame). There's also an assortment of whores ("hoo-ers " as Tommy calls them) Sally (Ann Magnuson) Amber (Natasha Lyonne) and junior high schooler Ruby (Nicole Jacobs) and their repellent pimp Rodan (Vinnie Jones). Everyone's paths cross as the hours pass on this sweltering summer night and the course of events turns as depressing and piteous as the wretched place where they live.
Montemarano (who looks vaguely like a worn-out Gene Hackman) has never acted a day in his life but you wouldn't believe it the way he comes off as the archetypal small-time con. Could be that's because he is--as an Italian growing up in Brooklyn he became a capo for the Colombo family and served 10 years in the big house for racketeering. He was cast in this movie thanks to childhood friend and co-star Argiro who left Brooklyn early on and fell into his own acting career quite by accident. It stands to reason then that their chemistry in these roles is pure true and honest. While they may only be acting their pasts completely influence their performances. Magnuson overacts the "hoo-er" thing (plus she's a little too classy a broad to be hanging out in skid row even given her age). Lyonne appears all too briefly (luuv her white platforms) but her role is pivotal and she plays it scarily real. Natividad is a revelation--pubescently alluring she balances the high wire between adult sexual awareness and the childlike innocence she loses forever after the night at the Golden Eagle. Jones strikes just the right gritty note as a malevolent dispicable pimp. Other supporting characters are well cast especially the young front desk clerk who provides a scant bit of comic relief. (James Caan who also has known the lead actors for years makes a quick cameo as a prison guard.)
If he set out to make the darkest most depressing most disquieting movie he could director Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City) accomplished just that. Night at the Golden Eagle comes off more like a play set in one location (with a few exceptions every scene takes place in or outside the hotel) and this plus the tight shots of the actors and the hotel rooms gives the movie a claustrophobic feel. You certainly want to get the hell away from the place (sometimes away from the movie itself) but you can't and neither can (or will) the unfortunate characters. Rifkin actually filmed the movie in a real skid row crack hotel which gives it a brownish aged dirty realism that Hollywood set directors can't ever seem to re-create. While one can't say this movie is enjoyable it definitely leaves a mark on the psyche that makes it far more memorable than the typical expendable big studio flick.