Director(s): Frank Coraci
Writer(s): Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk, Jerry Reed and Henry Winkler
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Nov 6, 1998 - Wide
In his new comedy, The Waterboy, Adam Sandler plays Bobby Boucher, a 31-year-old waterboy for a Louisiana college football team. The socially challenged man, whose over-protective mother (Kathy Bates) shelters him from life’s harsh realities, takes his job as the waterboy very seriously. The team, however, ridicules and abuses him. When he gets fired and moves to a new team, he still gets the same abuse but this time his new coach (Henry Winkler) says it’s okay to stand up for himself. Years of pent-up rage turn him into a tackling dynamo. Football, college classes and the attentions of a wild girl (Fairuza Balk) all battle with the devotion and fear he has for Mama, and the Waterboy has to become his own man.
Let’s get this out of the way. The Waterboy will not be making any critic’s Top 10 lists. The producers will not be running up to the podium to grab their Best Picture Oscar. Moreover, Film Comment magazine will not publish an essay on “Maternal Dominance and Male Insecurity in Post-War Films.”
That said, The Waterboy is a funny film. The humor is lowbrow and childish; the majority of characters are goofy and one-dimensional. In fact, I often felt like I was watching one of those old Disney films that used to star Kurt Russell.
That isn’t an insult though. Not every film released in the fall has to have some redeeming social value. The Waterboy’s a comedy. Did I laugh hard at times? Yes. Hey, it passed the test.
Now, I have never been a big Adam Sandler fan. Nothing about his previous work has ever dragged me to the cinema. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was able to add some depth to his waterboy character. Although Bobby has grown up sheltered and misguided, he does have a kind and honest soul. He’s a prat-falling Forrest Gump.
Henry Winkler’s Coach Klein is another wacky character who, like Bobby, must face up to the fact that he needs to take control of his life. Now many of the teen audience may not hold Winkler up as such a cultural icon, but to those of us who grew up watching Happy Days it’s really a change seeing “The Fonz” as a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Fairuza Balk, playing the standard love interest, is terribly underused here. Her biker babe character has basically been added to provide Sandler’s character with one more tug away from Mama and she even gets underused in the “we need some eye candy” function that girlfriends in these films usually play.
You wouldn’t expect to see an Oscar® winner like Kathy Bates in a film like this. I’m sure the schedule wasn’t too demanding and the money was good. She doesn’t shirk her responsibilities though and turns in an excellent performance as Bobby’s smothering mother. Her hair is flaming red, she calls women the devil, she barbecues alligators, and you still find her believable.
The Waterboy is a lightweight movie but Sandler’s name and audience will surely generate the studio some cash before Christmas. I get the feeling that Sandler will soon start to stretch his wings dramatically and sometimes the film is hampered by his efforts to make you feel for his character. Still, the film does deliver some great laughs at times. If you miss it at the theaters, a bag of popcorn and renting The Waterboy will make for a funny evening.