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The Waterboy

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Waterboy

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates
Director: Frank Coraci
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 1998
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Henry Winkler, Fairuza Balk, Jerry Reed, Clint Howard, Blake Clark

Review by Greg King
2 stars out of 4

With his role as the endearing hero in the wonderful romantic comedy The Wedding Singer, goofy comic Adam Sandler reached a wider audience. His effortless charm won over many who had previously been immune to his whining, obnoxious, dumb screen persona and his outrageous brand of manic humour. His latest comedy has already proven to be very popular in the States, although it is a backward step following the broadly appealing The Wedding Singer. The Waterboy heralds a return to the sort of crass, unsubtle and juvenile humour that drove his earlier movies Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison.

In a tailor-made role, Sandler again plays the familiar gormless loser who eventually triumphs against all odds. Sandler plays Billy Boucher, a naive lad from the bayous of Louisiana, who has been sheltered by his domineering and over possessive mother (Kathy Bates, from Misery, etc). No stranger to life's hardships, Mama Boucher has protected her little boy from the wilder world and its influences, which she claims are "the devil's work." Consequently, he lacks a real education and any social skills.

He works as the water distribution engineer (i.e.; waterboy) for a local college football team, but he is basically treated as a joke and constantly put down by the players. When he is fired by Beaulieu (Jerry Reed, from the Smokey And The Bandit series, etc), the arrogant, conniving, and very successful coach, Bobby approaches his less successful rival coach Klein (Henry Winkler) for a job as the team's waterboy. Klein's second rate team has lost the past forty games, and seems in no danger of turning around its losing streak.

When Klein discovers that Bobby's anger makes him the most fearsome tackler in the college league, he takes a punt and puts the waterboy on the team. Bobby becomes an integral part of the team's improbable, and fairy tale-like success. But can he take the team all the way to the championships without Mama finding out?

Along the way, the shy Bobby finds love with the tough Vicki Vallencourt (Fairuza Balk, from The Craft, etc), and helps coach Klein overcome his fear of long time rival Beaulieu. Sandler has created The Waterboy with several of his former college friends, including director Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer) and regular co-writer and collaborator Tim Herlihy (who has written his last four movies). They seem to have enjoyed themselves enormously making the film, and some of their infectious humour will spill over onto the audience.

The cast also seems to have enjoyed themselves immensely. Cast largely against type, Oscar winner Bates throws caution to the winds here. Her over the top performance lacks restraint, but it perfectly suits the mood of the film. Winkler's performance as the confused and dithering coach Klein is a far cry from the days when he played the legendary Fonz, two decades ago.

The parade of cameos from American sporting commentators and real life football identities will largely go unrecognised by Australian audiences, as will a lot of the parochial humour. A passing knowledge of the rules, strategies and complex game plans of American football would also be a big help in understanding much of the action here.

The Waterboy is a very silly, very crass film, but it will undoubtedly prove very popular with Sandler's legion of fans.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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