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The Waterboy

Review by Elias Savada
Posted 20 November 1998

  Directed by Frank Coraci.

Starring Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates,
Fairuza Balk, Jerry Reed,
and Henry Winkler.

Written by Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler

There’s something about Sandler. Adam "Big Bucks" Sandler. And, of course, funny Adam Sandler. This modern day David has doused a slew of Goliaths, including The Siege and Meet John Black, while smashing numerous box-office records with his latest "block"buster effort. His new comedy has already bypassed the cumulative gross of his previous crossover effort The Wedding Singer, and, by the time the game gun sounds, this silly but charming foozball bayou farce/Keystone Komedy will outgross all of Sandler’s features combined. For now it’s bound to keep the queues long and the smiles wide.

Sandler is back in tow with Wedding director and college roommate Frank Coraci, with writing partner and dorm-mate Tim Herlihy (involved with all of Sandler’s starring vehicles and a member of the New York State Bar) also returning as the boys tackle secondary education and Cajun cookin’ with a flair for the over-silly, excessive caricature of Louisiana low-brow stereotypes. Sandler’s Bobby Boucher is a 31-year-old home-schooled inbred cousin to his dumb and dumbest characters in Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, a childish, foolish sort that lives to serve others and to have others beat him up. He’s a perfectly contented mama’s boy (unsinkable swamp queen Kathy Bates as an over-sheltering banshee) that lives to provide a titular quality product on the sidelines of life and a nearby institute of higher learning.

But a mean-spirited dismissal by Louisiana Cougar hellfire coach Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed) forces Bobby to take a similar position as "water distribution engineer" with the hapless and moth-eaten Louisiana State University Mud Dogs, a depressing team of washouts managed by the Fonz himself (Henry Winkler, with a more than few marbles loose and a mid-life, mid-riff bulge, not to mention a Roy Orbison tattoo). The team’s losing funk turns to hope when the Perier Kid vents his anger at his insecure boss’s urging and becomes the most devastating tackler on earth. As in all of these sophomoric sports comedies, reason is tossed to the wind at the expense of broadly drawn society rejects, absurdly etched scenes, and slapstick visual humor. Be advised to leave your brain at home for the duration of this film, but bring along your heart as the film’s high spirits will certainly buoy yours. Oh yes, don’t forget your funny belt for an ample dose of guffaws, chuckles, and chortles.

Bates is allowed tremendous latitude in creating one of the most memorable and wackiest roles in the film. She cooks up a storm deep in her bayou home of sautéed snake, gator fingers, and other fried green culinary delights (not!) that make your stomach turn but your belly laugh. Stephen King would personally eat his heart out rather than gulp down some of the southern swill his Misery gal concocts for her son and his guests, including Coach Klein (Winkler) and Bobby’s hotwire squeeze Vicki Vallencourt (The Craft’s Fairuza Balk), whose quite a jailbird dish (in a trailer park trash sort of way) herself.

Other roles are filled with airheads, lunatics, and buffoons, including Blake Clark as Farmer Fran, an incomprehensible assistant coach for the Mud Dogs and running joke whenever he opens his mouth, and Ron Howard’s brother Clint as a half-witted fan, while fellow Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider overstays his welcome as a screaming townie. In tribute to their late brother Chris (and Sandler’s fellow SNLer and friend), John and Kevin Farley appear briefly in a wrestling scene, while director Coraci puts on a demented showing late in the film as a life-long walkout back to haunt Bobby. Among real life celebs/stars playing themselves are Lee Corso, Dan Fouts, Jimmy Johnson, Brent Musburger, Lynn Swann, and recently arrested Lawrence Taylor (warning kids not to do drugs!).

As a Disney release (through its Touchstone Pictures label), the film blatantly hammers home co-promotions for ABC and ESPN, both Mickey Mouse house-owned entities, not that I’ll be watching more of those stations because of the film’s cross plugs. But I’ll be awaiting Sandler’s next comic adventure with a fresh understanding for his special brand of comedy (but I still wish he’d straighten out his face). Sandler has proven himself a worthy alchemist with The Waterboy, transforming swamp water to Evian. Quite a refreshing if moronic romp. Sandler rocks!

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