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The Waterboy (1998)

Touchstone Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/4/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/30/2009

With the release of The Wedding Singer in 1998, it looked as if funnyman Adam Sandler was taking his career in a different direction. Sure, that movie has some odd moments, but it was nothing like his previous two films, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. It appeared that Sandler wanted to downplay the weirder side of things and become more of a romantic leading man. That concept was trashed later that same year when The Waterboy hit theaters. This movie was a loud proclamation that Sandler was just as strange as ever.

Sandler stars in The Waterboy as Bobby Boucher, a strange, childlike man who serves as the waterboy for the Louisiana University football team. Despite constant taunts by the team and Coach Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed), Bobby takes his “job” (he isn’t paid) very seriously. When Coach Red decides that Bobby has become a distraction to the team, he fires the waterboy. Dejected, Bobby returns to his home (which is in the bayou) and his overprotective mother, Mama (Kathy Bates). Convinced that his mission in life is to be a waterboy, Bobby approaches Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) at South Central Louisiana State University. The Muddogs are on a multi-year losing streak and Coach Klein is at the end of his rope, so he is ambivalent about Bobby lending his services. When this team, despite the fact that they are all losers themselves, taunts Bobby, Coach Klein encourages him to retaliate, and everyone learns that Bobby is a great tackler. Coach Klein has Bobby enroll in school so that he can play football. Can they keep this a secret from Mama and can a lowly waterboy become a football star?

On the surface...well, maybe a bit left of the surface, The Waterboy looks like any other sports movie. You’ve got the requisite down and out underdog team which suddenly finds new life and vies to challenge their dominant rival. A la Rudy, you’ve got the unlikely hero who suddenly finds himself playing on a college football team. Along the way, there are the typical roadblocks and a love interest (here played by Fairuza Balk).

However, Sandler and longtime co-writer Tim Herlihy take all of these stereotypical elements and turn them on their heads. Everything in this movie is definitely left of center and it may be the weirdest of Sandler’s career. Bobby Boucher, the water-obsessed wrestling fan mama’s boy speaks with an odd Cajun accent and comes across as someone with a low IQ. Mama keeps a donkey in the house and claims that all of the outside world is “the devil”. Bobby rides a lawnmower to and from practice. (If you think about it, this movie is like a bizarro version of Forrest Gump.) To keep Mama from learning about his involvement in football, Bobby convinces her that he was assaulted by an escaped gorilla. Anyone going into this expecting a normal sports movie will most likely come out with a severe headache.

But the insanity of The Waterboy works, and this is a very funny movie. While there aren’t a lot of quotable lines in the movie (save for one Bobby yells at Mama concerning something which Vicki Vallencourt showed him) and the “My Mama said” moments may become redundant, this is a consistently humorous film. (About the quotes, I know that the “You can do it!” line has been adopted by Sandler’s camp, and while it’s funny in the film, it gets old fast. Having said that, whenever my wife and I hear that someone’s name is Helen, we always say, “Who’s Helen?”) The movie has some great set-pieces of physical comedy, and the interactions between Sandler and Bates are classic. The movie also some come great cameos, including Clint Howard, Rob Schneider, and several notables from the world of sports, such as UNC alum Lawrence Taylor and Dan Patrick.

Adam Sandler’s movie have never been exactly mainstream, but most of his recent entries have fallen flat. The Waterboy represents a time in his career when major studios were willing to give him money to make absolutely ridiculous movies and the result is a near comedy classic.

The Waterboy is the only one who can past the test on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, although it does some some very minor grain and a few slight defects from the source material. One undeniable thing about this transfer is that the colors look fantastic. I guess that I would have called this a colorful movie before, but the primary colors in Mama’s house and the green of the football field really leap off of the screen. This is definitely an improvement over the old DVD release. The Disc features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, and they show a nice amount of separation. The surround sound effects really come to life during the games, as the crowd noise roars from the rear speakers. The tackles provides some solid subwoofer “thumps” and the in-film music is notably good.

There are no extras whatsoever on this Blu-ray Disc. Therefore, for those with the DVD, you would only be upgrading for the picture and sound, which are fairly impressive.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long