Adam Sandler is, like certain vegetables and sexual practices, an acquired taste. However, if proof were needed that America has most definitely clutched this winsome clown to her capacious bosom, then The Waterboy is it. A slight sports comedy that could easily have headed straight for the bottom video shelf instead made straight for the top of the theatrical pile, where it raked in $150 million. That's one-five-zero million.
So where did it all go right? Well, for starters, Sandler and long-time conspirator Herlihy have been here before: this is the team that brought you The Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmore, no less. Not that Bobby is a sharp, street kid like Happy, but the writers who appreciated what comedy violence could bring to the genteel world of golf are well equipped to give American football plenty of slap and loads of stick.
Bobby's hidden talent for havoc is The Waterboy's trump card; quite simply, each time he puts in a thumping tackle (accompanied by stomach-churning sound effects) is a moment of pure comedy gold. And just when the story is flagging... BOOM! There goes another one.
As far as plot goes, director Coraci may have a lot of fun with the Louisiana setting (The Waterboy's slender charm would not have survived a transfer to California) but no amount of backwoods jokes can disguise that we've been here plenty of times before. Indeed, the ending is so predictable that any bookie worth his salt would immediately know the fix he was in. (How many sequels to The Mighty Ducks do we really need?) Despite such old pros as Kathy Bates and Henry Winkler hamming it up in support, and Fairuza Balk effortlessly engaging as the vampish Veronica, none of them see enough of the ball to make any real impact.
Which inevitably brings us back round to Sandler. Sadly, our Ad seems unwilling to go what Burt Reynolds once called "the longest yard". He may invest Bobby with an annoying accent (think Cajun Rain Man) but strangely Sandler seems anxious to make Boucher more likable that laughable. It's a fair bet that an actor like Jim Carrey would have pushed Bobby to the extreme: real humiliation in the quest for laughs. And the irony is, whenever The Waterboy is silly it's pretty darn lovable, but as soon as it tries to be lovable it ends up looking... well, silly.
But then Bobby - ouch! - goes and breaks some more bones and - blam! - you find yourself laughing so hard that - booyah! - you figure you might just watch this one joke forever.
The Waterboy could've been a riot if Jim Carrey was on the ball, or the Farrelly brothers were calling the plays. As it is, Sandler's charm offensive, matched with a bruising defence, has just enough mayhem to keep you cheering for the home team.