Part IV of The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler

In Ideological Content Analysis:

A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective

Of the ICA Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

The number five film at the box office in 1998 and the number two adult-targeted comedy of that year (after the juggernaut There’s Something About Mary), The Waterboy was another major hit for Adam Sandler, here reteamed with Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci.  From the beginning The Waterboy makes its intentions clear, breaking with opening credits tradition in proclaiming itself “A Frank Coraci Movie” rather than the conventional rendering “An [insert director’s name] Film”.  In other words, The Waterboy is self-conscious and unashamed popular entertainment, preemptively thumbing its nose at whatever the critics might say about it.  As such, the movie is more or less a success – an energetic, upbeat, and stupendously stupid sports comedy aimed at the proverbial lowest common denominator.

Sandler, in a turn reminiscent of his “Cajun Man” Weekend Update bit from Saturday Night Live, creates one of the most memorable comic characters of the decade in Bobby Boucher, a 31-year-old rube still toiling as a college football team’s waterboy.  Boucher is socially awkward, lacks confidence, wets his bed, and is still a virgin; but he is not, as might at first appear to be the case, mentally retarded.  Even more shocking, it turns out the loser has real rage inside and potential as a psychotically brutal offensive lineman whenever somebody makes Boucher angry enough.  Down-on-his-luck Coach Klein (Henry Winkler, in a wry performance indicative of his range beyond the Fonz) knows a star player when he sees one; and, against the wishes of Boucher’s fanatically protective Mama (Kathy Bates), gives the beleaguered waterboy the chance to lead the South Central Louisiana University Mud Dogs to glory.  The climactic team win peculiarly lacks the expected comic punch, but enough in the film is endearing and funny for its shortcomings to be forgiven.

3 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Waterboy is:

9. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  A black player pictures a football as a Klansman’s head so as to motivate himself to kick it especially hard.

8. Feminist.  Distractingly sexy Fairuza Balk plays Boucher’s tough love interest, blade-wielding car thief and potential murderess Vicki Vallencourt, who can handle herself with ease against any would-be oppressor.

7. Mildly anti-South.  The hicks who populate the film are good sorts for the most part, but stereotypically ignorant white trash nonetheless.  One of Boucher’s college professors, a Col. Sanders look-alike, is brutally tackled in a moment of humiliation for an absurd visual representative of the plantation-infested Old South.

6. Drug-ambivalent.  “Don’t smoke crack,” says famous cocaine user Lawrence Taylor to a group of children.  Drinking humor occurs throughout, however, with even the Mud Dogs’ mascot imbibing.  The big game at the end is the Bourbon Bowl.

5. Anti-Christian.  Mrs. Boucher represents conservative Christians as fundamentalist twits obsessed with avoiding an omnipresent evil which lurks in unexpected places.  “Little girls are the devil,” she warns her son; also “Ben Franklin is the devil,” and she even mumbles about the Prince of Darkness in her sleep.

4. Pro-gay.  A sheriff and his deputy answer their door shirtless, the implication being that they have been in each other’s arms.  Misunderstanding Boucher to have said he is bisexual, a party tramp remarks, “I think that’s sexy.”  Coach Klein is seen wearing women’s shoes in a flashback.

3. Statist.  Decent vocabulary notwithstanding, homeschooled Boucher, with his lack of worldliness and social skills is essentially a walking, whimpering endorsement for public schools.  Knowledge-hungry Boucher, when given the chance, is eager to have a university education.  Nevertheless, The Waterboy inadvertently undermines the audience’s confidence in state-run education when the Louisiana high school equivalency examination is shown to include the following inaccurate question: “Ben Franklin discovered electricity.  In what year did this happen?”  (Ben Franklin, despite what unqualified Louisiana teacher union apparatchiks might teach the rustics, did not discover electricity.)

2. Pro-slut.  Tattooed floozy Vicki is all too happy to flash her breasts at the virginal football hero and flirts shamelessly with him in front of his disapproving mother.  (See also no. 4)

1. Family-ambivalent.  Boucher’s love for his mother is consistently touching, but her smothering affection is ultimately an obstacle that must be overcome.  Boucher’s father abandoned his family, and the son, in a triumphant moment of self-assertion, rejects his attempt at reconciliation.

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