The Bottom Line
A simpleminded but considerate waterboy (Adam Sandler) becomes a national sensation when he turns his internal anger into an unstoppable force on the football field.
The Rest of The Story
Bobby Boucher has a dream.
Despite his general simplemindedness and prototypical "stupid Adam Sandler dialect", he has spent the good part of his life trying to be the best waterboy he could possibly be. But Coach Red Beaulieu (the colossal Jerry Reed) has no respect for Boucher or his dream. And so he unceremoniously "fires" Bobby (who has never been paid) after he interrupts a practice.
Left to his own devices, Bobby finds his way over to South Central Louisiana State University, where he runs into the hapless Coach Klein (a self-deprecating Henry Winkler.) Klein is a nervous wreck with virtually no self-esteem, and he finds a confidant in the humble Boucher.
The rest of the players, on the other hand, constantly make fun of the new waterboy. Finally, a particularly harsh incident brings Klein to Bobby's defense. "Why not fight back?" Coach inquires. And so Bobby does, tackling his harrasser with comically vicious force. It seems that Coach and the team have found themselves a secret weapon in Bobby's pent-up anger. There's just one problem.
You see, Mrs. Boucher (Kathy Bates) thinks everything is "the devil" and forbids Bobby from doing all sorts of things, from dating to listening to music to playing "the fooseball" as she so eloquently puts it. So Bobby does the unthinkable and lies to his mother, hiding his football antics from her as best he can, with the help of a rebellious biker chick (Fairuza Balk) and Coach Klein.
Although the team still struggles on offense, their defense becomes a juggernaut with Bobby at middle linebacker, and the team proceeds to go 10-1 and earn a trip to the Bourbon Bowl, where they'll face off against Bobby's old employer, Coach Beaulieu. Unfortunately, Bobby's mother accidentally learns about his fooseball, and immediately becomes so ill that she needs to be hospitalized. When the team comes to convince Bobby to abandon his bedside vigil, he politely refuses, redeclaring his allegiance to his Momma.
Will Bobby's mother recover? Will the team win the big game? And will they be properly hydrated? All these and more are waiting for you to take the big drink.
Throughout his career as a comedian, Adam Sandler has managed to walk the thin line between pathos and ridicule better than almost any mainstream star since Jerry Lewis. From Billy Madison to Happy Gilmore to The Wedding Singer, he's never been short of sympathetic characters, with the emphasis on pathetic. And The Waterboy is no exception.
Here, his penchant for novel dialects turns for the worse, as Bobby is afflicted with a half-Cajun, half-slap happy idiot accent that is incomparably facile. It distracts heavily from his character, never feeling like it fits him wholly. One almost expects him to break out of his mode with a high-tea British voice at choice moments.
The supporting cast seems remarkably pleased to be involved in the project, from the fun-hating Kathy Bates to the almost artfully self-deprecating Henry Winkler. Fairuza Balk's love interest seems almost tacked on, as she weaves in and out of the movie's plot at strange and poorly timed moments. But one can hardly fault that, as the film slowly becomes merely a testament to Bobby.
And perhaps this is where the film fails. Whereas Happy Gilmore's golf story is only an excuse to help his grandmother, and Billy Madison's back-to-school plot is to win over the family business, here the football takes center stage. This actually becomes a detriment, as it devolves into a weird Bad News Bears meets The Mighty Ducks mentality - despite being at its heart an Adam Sandler "look at me!" flick. The fact that both of these movies are about children not playing the violent sport of football is telling.
But, like his other films, Sandler manages to find enough humor both pedestrian and patently absurd to give the movie life where others may have failed entirely. Sometimes though, it's hardly worth roughing it for a spare diamond or two.
Rating: 4 out of 10. Hey, at least it's not Little Nicky.
Adam Sandler .... Bobby Boucher
Kathy Bates .... Helen 'Mama' Boucher
Fairuza Balk .... Vicki Vallencourt
Henry Winkler .... Coach Klein
Jerry Reed .... Coach Red Beaulieu
Larry Gilliard Jr. .... Derek Wallace
Blake Clark .... Farmer Fran
Peter Dante .... Gee Grenouille
Al Whiting .... Casey Bugge
Clint Howard .... Paco
Allen Covert .... Walter
Rob Schneider .... Townie
Robert Kokol .... Professor