American critics tend to point towards comedies starring Adam Sandler as one of the signs of the decline of Western Civilisation. The author of this review often found those views amusing after watching Adam Sandler in films that were much better than those apocalyptic words might suggest. However, there are some instances when the critics proved to be right. The Waterboy, 1998 comedy directed by Frank Coraci, is one of them.
In this film Adam Sandler plays Bobby Boucher, 31-year old man who spent his entire life with his overprotective mother Helen (played by Kathy Bates) in Louisiana bayou. He earns his living as the water boy for one of America's leading college football team whose members see his lack of social skills and speech impediment as good excuse for endless ridicule and bullying. Finding this sort of amusement distracting, the coach Red Beaulieu (played by Jerry Reed) fires Bobby who later gets job in a losing team, led by emotionally insecure coach Klein (played by Henry Winkler). There it turns out that seemingly harmless Bobby, when he is provoked enough, possesses ability to tackle football players. Klein sees Bobby as his team's secret weapon, but in order to play, Bobby must first go to college.
The Waterboy is based on Saturday Night Live sketch and it shares the flaw of many such films. What works in a short scene isn't enough for a feature film. Sandler and his co-writer Tim Herlihy try to compensate by combining sentimental sports film clichés with toilet humour and often annoying cultural stereotypes. The result of their efforts is a comedy that would cause more yawns than laughs. When laughs happen, they could be attributed to Adam Sandler's comedic talent rather than quality of the script. Scenes that work also include Henry Winkler who brilliantly plays protagonist's emotionally insecure mentor. The rest of the cast is disappointing – Fairuza Balk is forgettable in the obligatory role of protagonist's romantic interest and same can be said of otherwise dependable Kathy Bates as hyperventilating Mrs. Boucher.
The Waterboy had good results at American box office but they are usually attributed to the Star Wars fans eager to see trailer for upcoming Phantom Menace. Today, when it can be watched only by its own merit, The Waterboy is a disappointment, even by standards associated with Adam Sandler's work.
RATING: 3/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on February 28th 2005)
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