Born on the Bayou, Fumbling Towards Glory
Adam Sandler's new comedy The Waterboy is about as predictable, vulgar, and silly as you'd expect from a football movie. But it earns its laughs honestly - mostly because it's smart enough to have fun with the conventions it sends up. If you or anyone you love ever wore one of those hats with double straws leading to beer cans on your head to a game, you will enjoy this film.
There are well-placed sports cameos (and plugs for ABC, this being a Disney property), satires about backwoods Cajun life, and more virgin jokes than absolutely necessary...but then, it wouldn't be a football movie without offhand degradation of female anatomy and concurrent comparisons of poor athletes to girls. If you've seen Gus, the movie about the mule that could kick field goals from 110 yards away, you already know what The Waterboy's about. But if you liked that movie, you'll probably like this one too.
Set in a Louisiana backwater where people eat baby alligators and play badminton with horses to pass the time, the story focuses on Bobby Boucher - a home-schooled, bed-wetting loser who is fired from his position as waterboy for a big Alabama university football team. Bobby (whose father supposedly died of thirst in the Sahara Desert) is obsessed with giving players the cleanest, coldest water available, so he goes seeking another position, ending up at SCLSU, a school whose team has a 40-game consecutive losing streak.
At an offhand suggestion from the nerdy coach that he should defend himself from taunting, Boucher attacks the nasty players and discovers that he has a gift as a tackle - he can crush anyone who insults his water or his Momma. This talent extends to college professors who disagree with Momma's philosophies, unfortunately, thus providing a running gag for people who have always wanted to see Colonel Sanders get stuffed.
Momma herself, played by a hysterically over-the-top Kathy Bates, doesn't approve of her little boy paying "foozball," or hanging out with all those intellectuals at the university who might teach him about science rather than warning him about the devil. But Coach Klein's revelation of the Roy Orbison tattoo on his butt convinces Bobby to give football a shot, and his efforts propel the team straight to the Bourbon Bowl. Assorted complications from the need for a high school equivalency degree to Momma's despair to a bad-news girlfriend to the coach's old nemesis start to get in the way of a good goalpost-tearing celebration, but I bet you can guess who throws the winning touchdown pass.
Don't go to this film if you expect to see quality football, real or CGI-generated; don't go for the cheerleaders either, they spend most of their screen time falling down drunk. Go instead for Farmer Fran, the heavily-accented special teams coach who plays with his nipples when the team's doing well, and for Henry Winkler's cowering Little League Coach Klein, who gets plays out of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Football and who taunts Boucher in a hallucination by insisting that Gatorade is better than water. Fairuza Balk does a passable turn as Bobby's ex-con true love, and there are numerous references to professional wrestling and its lingo. The fastidious water jokes get a little old, but they're mostly over by the time Bobby picks up a football.
The cameos really make the movie, however. Case in point: midway through the championship game, Brent Musberger turns to a colleague who has used the phrase "They're not holding anything back!" too many times and throttles him. Would that Brent could do the same to Dan Dierdorf on occasion. The funniest scene, however, gains its power through unintentionally lucky timing: Boucher shows up to teach a clinic at Lawrence Taylor's football camp, uttering silly platitudes about how he tackles his opponents by running after them and trying to knock them down. After this embarrassing display, the mystified Taylor says to his young fans, "And that reminds me of another thing...don't do crack!" (The entire theater burst into sustained applause for LT.)
The sexual humor is juvenile, the football's pedestrian, but Sandler is charming as the hopelessly geeky Boucher and Bates is a scream as Momma Dearest (actually, the mother from Monty Python's Life of Brian is a more apt analogy). And the soundtrack's terrific. What more can anyone ask from a sports satire?