That’s My Boy seems to be keeping with Adam Sandler’s recent career decision of making us feel sorry and hatred for the once untouchable comedic god. When I was in Elementary School and Junior High I can’t think of a single boy in my grade that didn’t worship Sandler and Farley. In the 90’s Sandler was a hero to a generation. That generation who grew up knowing Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison by heart. That generation who knows all the famous Jews thanks to all 3 Chanukah songs. It’s also that generation who gets completely confused when we see Sandler starring, writing or producing movies like Grown Ups, Bucky Larson, Jack & Jill and That’s My Boy.
The SNL alumni also managed to make a name for himself in the 90’s as a musician. His first album They’re All Going to Laugh You is a critically hated but commercially massive comedy album that is one of the funniest records the 90’s had to offer. It’s follow up What the Hell Happened to Me? did a record high and continues to be the best selling comedy album since Nielson Soundscan began tracking in 1991. Ironically “What the hell happened…” was the question on many fans’ lips the following year when Sandler released What’s Your Name?
After an album heavy on long vulgar skits (like The Goat, a skit that many a teenage boy quoted to each other when parents weren’t home) Sandler released a record of all songs. The record sold well enough (over 500,000 copies) but in general the album was greeted with mostly shoulder shrugs and scratched heads. For me though, even at 12, I loved this album immediately.
Sandler is a musician. He’s not the greatest singer in history nor is his guitar playing earth shattering, but he’s always been someone who loved music. Many of his classic SNL segments were based on music (including Red Hooded Sweatshirt found on this record). Listening to his songs you hear another side of this comedian Adam Sandler. While in film he’s typically a short-tempered man screaming about “something” and in his skits he’s usually spouting as many four-letter words and potty humor humanly possible in songs he can suddenly become someone you sympathize with.
This doesn’t mean that the four-letter words and potty humor doesn’t find their way into songs (look no further than Bad Boyfriend, Dancin’ and Patsin’ and The Goat Song for plenty of vulgarity) but mostly the songs come from the perspective of the outcast.
This is the key-element in my mind to people’s immediate rejection of this record. It’s definitely a rug being pulled out from you. You go out and pick up an Adam Sandler record you expect something that will make you laugh out loud. Some of the songs do that (Voodoo, Corduroy Blues) but you’re completely side swiped when a song like Pickin’ Daisies comes on.
Pickin’ Daisies tells the story of a young boy (I always imagined him about 10) who gets picked on mercilessly by kids at school. His dad is ashamed by him but he finds comfort with his mom. He doesn’t care that he has to do girly things with her. She provides him with comfort. The song ends with him thinking about years down the line when him and all his classmates are in an old folks together and he’ll have memories of his mother to comfort him. Sandler tries to make the song humorous with his “mother voice” and a few of the things the mother says, but at the end of the day the song is delightful mix of sweet and sad.
Even elements as something as ridiculous and vulgar as The Goat Song leaves you wanting to sympathize with the battered and abused goat. When he sings ‘Thank you old man for saving my life, thank you again and again/You could have let them barbaque me, instead you acted like a friend’ have a strange sweetness to them. However it’s in Lonesome Kicker (the lone single) where Sandler’s sympathetic comedy shines through strongest.
Sandler wears Bruce Springsteen’s sound better than the (so-called) Boss himself. The song tells the humorous but sad life of a field goal kicker Andre Kristacovitchlalinski, Jr. While there are plenty of short jokes and lyrics about his lack of respect there’s also lines like “I hope that the cameras don’t come in to close or they might see the tears in my eyes” that are sung with such sincerity that you can’t help but feel a little bad for this fictional foreigner
I think Sandler wanted to prove to the world that he was a musician as well as a comedian. You don’t write a song like Listenin to the Radio without having a love and desire to play music. But he made a fatal mistake in performing under his name. People see Adam Sandler they think “comedy”, it’s the exact same reason why Donald Glover raps under the alias Childish Gambino. People have an Adam Sandler expectation and when rapid-fans don’t understand why that expectation isn’t being met they’re unhappy. Regardless of how great the product may be (read some comments on the Punch-Drunk Love thread on IMDb for proof).
I can defend What’s Your Name? and I can explain why I think Sandler made the choices that he did… but I still can’t explain Jack & Jill to you. Sorry