SPLICEDwire: "The Waterboy" review

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1.5 stars 86 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, November 6, 1998
Directed by Frank Coraci

Starring Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler, Fairuza Balk, Jerry Reid & Blake Clark

Cameos: Rob Schneider, Dan Fouts, Chris Fowler, Jimmy Johnson, Brent Musburger, Dan Patrick, Lynn Swann, Lawrence Taylor, Lee Corso & Bill Cowher


Not much here that could get any dumber on the small screen. In fact, it might improve if you have something else to do while watching.

Sandler can't save drowning low-brow football comedy

By Rob Blackwelder

Without Adam Sandler attached, "The Waterboy" would have never made it past the intern script readers at Disney's Touchstone Pictures.

It's an extremely low-brow, nonsense script, the very best elements of which are unlikely to amuse even the most dimwitted of "Beavis and Butthead" types. The only tent pole propping it up is Sandler and his particular brand of canned ham, which is always best in moderation, but there's none of that here.

Sandler stars as Bobby Boucher, a Gump-ish Louisiana half-wit who has worked for 15 years as the H20-obsessed "water distribution engineer" for a local college football team.

Relentlessly picked on by the jocks and coaches, he weathers himself against the their bullying by quoting the swamp trash wisdom of his over-protective mama (Kathy Bates) in a whiny, lispy voice that sounds like his tongue is too big for his mouth (the accent becomes like fingernails on a chalkboard after about 15 minutes).

Fired from his waterboy duties by hotheaded Coach Red Beaulieu (country-rock song-writer Jerry Reed), Bobby goes to work for a near-by rival college team where, after finally enduring one too many insults, he ferociously knocks the quarterback on his duff and gets recruited as a defensive lineman by a neurotically insecure coach, played by Henry Winkler.

The rest of the movie is a clumsy variation on the Terrible Team Triumphs plot, with Bobby leading his team, the Mud Dogs, to the inevitable bowl game in which he gets to avenge himself against all the meanies at his former school by tackling the hell out of them. (Disney-owned ABC Sports and ESPN provide play-by-play celebs for cameos.)

I had high hopes for "The Waterboy" since Sandler is again teamed with director Frank Coraci, who helped the comedian out of the dork comedy cellar in "The Wedding Singer." But this thing has less plot than a porno movie.

When Bobby is not on the football field, "The Waterboy" consists of almost entirely random scenes involving hiding his football career from mama, who is dead set against Bobby "p'ayin' da fooseball behin' my back" (Note to Bates: Fire your agent), and cavorting with Fairuza Balk ("American History X," "The Craft"), a trashy neighbor girl who is inexplicably attracted to him.

The only real highlight of "The Waterboy" is the tackling Sandler gets to do. As the movie's sole gimmick it's played to death, but director Coraci manages to conjure up a surprising number of variations on this one-note theme, and the Foley artists really work the audio for maximum bone-crunching effect.

"The Waterboy" was written by Sandler and "Saturday Night Live" writer Tim Herlihy, who has co-written all Sandler's movies and still can't seem to get out of the comedy skit mind-set. This picture is almost entirely unintelligible three- or four-minute set pieces loosely held together by the football theme.

Most off-the-gridiron scenes feel a lot like rejected "SNL" material and are predicated on the most flimsy of premises -- like the night-before-the-bowl-game rally (in a backwater swamp) that is interrupted by the rival team, which just happen to be passing by. And most of the "humor" stems from recycled white trash gags, like Bates barbecuing lizard at a picnic.

The concept for this picture was ripe with potential -- especially with Sandler on board. But it seems the producers thought Sandler's presence would be enough to carry the movie without a badly needed re-write.

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