The Waterboy
Rating -

Comedy (US); 1998; Rated PG-13; 86 Minutes

Adam Sandler: Bobby Boucher
Fairuza Balk: Vicki Vallencourt
Kathy Bates: Mama Boucher
Henry Winkler: Coach Klein
Blake Clark: Farmer Fran

Produced by Jack Giarraputo, Michelle Holdsworth, Ira Shuman, Robert Simonds and Rita Smith; Directed by Frank Coraci; Screenwritten by Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Films like "The Waterboy" begin their lives as great ideas. Directors, producers and screenwriters get together with the notion that they can created a successful comedy with both humor and amusing elements, possibly containing some influential actors and actresses on screen. All of these things come together in the later production stages, and at first glance, the whole idea seems like a simple, worthy one to tackle. They think that these types of movies carry potential to be critically acclaimed, financially successful, or, more appropriately, both.

But then, something bad happens. When the writing process of these comedies reaches completion, only then do the film makers realize that something is likely missing here: the humor. This is supposed to be a comedy, so what's one to do in this situation?

Their answer is also easy to tackle. They decide to cast big stars in their movies (if they choose to accept the parts, of course) with the notion that big celebrities can turn any type of bad or dismal material into something plausible. They honestly believe that big stars like Adam Sandler can carry out these jokes and comedy routines to the point of provoking the needed humor, unlike what it doesn't in the writing stage.

Sometimes, they work. Sometimes movie makers and their stars can turn a horrible comedy script into something worthy of attention, because the screen presence of certain talents is enough to make some material work. We might know that the script sucks, but with someone we admire on the screen trying their hardest to make the script look good, we enjoy it sometimes. As long as they put their passion into it, we have a passable movie.

However, most of the time, actors know that their script sucks. They often refuse to work on the project with the intention that it could destroy their careers, and let's face it, no one want to do that. But sometimes, actors do it anyway, regardless if they think the script is awful. In this situation, actors merely care about the paycheck, and thus, they put hardly any effort into their parts. This situation violates our need to see such movies. When our favorite actors don't care about pleasing anyone in their movies, why bother? If we see them and expect something great, then we'll be let down, because their effort is wasted and the humor does not emerge from the script like film makers hope for.

The process is different in many ways, but the description I have given you is what might run through your mind when you see a movie like "The Waterboy," a picture so effortless and moronic that it destroys any faith we might have in Adam Sandler that he can make a good movie. As the Steve Martin of the 90s, he's ultimately recognized by all the mean, cruel, or degrading things he does to other on screen. In "Happy Gilmore," he beat up Bob Barker. In "The Wedding Singer," he treated all of his 'non-fans' like they were the leftovers at a Disneyland hotel. In "The Waterboy," he plays a lisp-speaking, clumsy, stupid little mama's boy whose life has no direction, no purpose, and, apparently, no human intelligence. After he is hired to be the water boy for a crumbling Louisiana football team, a few of the 'star' players enjoy insulting him every chance they get. When he's at the point where he just can't take it anymore, he exclaims 'stop making fun of me,' and head-butts them, sort of like a tackle, I guess.

Their coach, Klein, after witnessing this, decides that, perhaps, this kid will be an asset into bringing this football team back into the spotlight. Bobby himself would enjoy the opportunity to play football with his special tackle ability, but will his mother let him? She already told him that she wanted him to have nothing to do with playing this sport. How will he convince her to let him play?

We don't really care. In this evolution of the story, there are jokes and gags that repeat themselves more than an episode of "Law & Order" does on cable. A football player insults Sandler's character, and then he's tackled by the angry water boy. The first time the joke is demonstrated, I laughed--I'll admit that much. Afterwards, I didn't, even though the insults were knew and the reaction of Sandler's character was somewhat different. It still wasn't funny. Sandler himself can be funny, but tackling football players because they make fun of him is no amusing. It gets old fast.

And this is a sad fate, because I gather this is a movie that could have been saved in the writing stages. Putting a big star like Adam Sandler in a script like this could have paid off, literally. It could have been funny. But Sandler himself must be displeased with material, because he hardly puts his strength in his character. Perhaps if he had the ambition of working with such material, something better could have emerged.

Then again, the movie could have been done in a couple of different ways as well. Examples of how this movie could have been made differently are as follows:

(1): They could have paired Sandler up with a character of similar context. Movies that involve multiple characters interacting with each other and their surroundings can be funny. Don't believe me? Watch "Dumb And Dumber" or "Beavis And Butthead Do America" sometime. Those are comedies, that, yes, involve someone of limited intelligence, but rather than putting us up against two or more of them in "The Waterboy," we merely get one who does not interact with anyone similar and does not appeal to anyone of interest.

(2): Sandler's character (Bobby, by the way) could have proved all of the people around him wrong. In "Forrest Gump," the title role was portrayed as a clumsy, misinterpreted moron who hardly had the intelligence of your average spoon of peanut butter. At least, that's what everyone else in the movie believed. Us in the audience knew he was smart on the inside, because instead of giving into the fact that he might be a pure idiot, he became a college graduate, a war hero, and, among other things, a great father to a great kid. Considering that Bobby is thought out to be a dunce from the first moment, he could have proved everyone wrong by succeeding in things that came naturally to him. Yes, he does save a football team from going under, but I hardly consider that important. Football isn't even a worthy sport. It's men in big bulging uniforms that pounce each other to prevent a stupid-looking ball from crossing a yard line. Whoopee! That's exciting! But then again, if "The Waterboy" had been constructed like "Forrest Gump" with just one of these dumb characters, it probably wouldn't have been a comedy.

The third way to construct this type of movie is the one film makers obviously chose. That was to create a single idiotic character and put him up against obstacles and tasks that are almost similar in content and not very amusing. So what if he tackles better than anyone else in Louisiana? So what? So do other football players.

On top of that, it's just dull. Once you've seen a tackle, you've seen them all. Repeating these practical things is not funny. The material and insults that these people provoke are not funny. Why? Because afterwards, he always tackles someone for it. This sours the whole conception of trying to insult the heck out of this guy. That's okay in movies, but why does his reaction or action to the insults always have to be the same?

This is a movie that could have been much better. It could have been done in several different ways, either bad or good. This was the way taken because it was obviously the easiest and quickest way to make money. Write a clumsy script, put it up against a famous star and see what the result is. That's probably what director Frank Coraci said to himself when the script was in the final stage of writing. By then, a rewrite was probably out of the question. By then, what else could have possibly saved it?

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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