Not only has Adam Sandler’s Netflix deal benefited him, but it has helped bring life to his production company Happy Madison. With a Kevin James special and a Rob Schneider TV series, each of the core Sandlerverse gang were slowly getting their own deals thanks to their buddy’s relationship with the streaming giant. That left David Spade as the only one that hadn’t starred in their own project, but that wait is over. How does this film shape up with the other Netflix Original Happy Madison films?
Synopsis: When a drunken debate between two recent college graduates about whose father would win in a fight is taken seriously by their idiot dads, jobs are lost, relationships ruined, futures destroyed, and best friends come of age as they come to grips with who their fathers really are. (Netflix)
Starring: David Spade, Nat Faxon, and Joey Bragg
Writers: Brandon Cournoyer and Tyler Spindel
Director: Tyler Spindel
Running Time: 94mins
The story follows Ben (Bragg) and Larry (Adam Shively), two college graduates, who return to their hometown before heading to New York City to start their careers. They are greeted by their two fathers: Ben’s dad Wayne (Spade), a trailer-park living drunk, and Larry’s dad Mardy (Faxon), an emasculated beta. During a night of drinking, Ben and Larry debate whose father would win in a fight leading Wayne to take matters into his own hands and prove his worth to his son.
Happy Madison’s last film The Week Of took a step back from the typical crude humour that their comedies are so well known for and opted to focus on the younger generations in the film and how the older characters were coming to terms with their roles as parents. Father of the Year similarly looks at the relationship between parents and their kids, but it brings back the typical Happy Madison humour that one would expect from a film starring any of the Sandlerverse staples. This should help in understanding the tone that this film is going for. It is not meant to be a hugely emotional and deep story about generations reconnecting although it very well could have been.
In fact, the film’s biggest hinderense is actually its premise. The idea of two friends debating which of their fathers would win in a fight sounds like a lunchroom debate at an elementary school. The idea on its own is lifeless and feels like it should be either an SNL sketch or TV episode. This unfortunately translates into a poorly realized script that feels like a very rough draft of an idea. The story peaks early and wastes its premise within the first 10-20 minutes causing the majority of the film to be bogged down by the usual shock cliches of Happy Madison films until its inevitably punchline.
There is a promising story underlining the main concept as the coming of age tale centered around the college grads and their attempt to find what they want to do with their lives adds a nice millennial commentary to the film. Unfortunately, this storyline is sidelined to focus on the ridiculously crude or slapstick humour of the dad versus dad debate. The story isn’t the only issue with the script as the characters are more bad than good. The two fathers are very bland and seem like forced caricatures that even David Spade cannot save. It is pretty evident that this film was not written for David Spade as the thick Boston accent and humour of his character falls more in line with the iconic loudmouthed antics of Adam Sandler. Sounds like he passed on this film and gave it to one of his buddies.
There is a saving grace in the film’s cast and that is the younger generation. Minus Sandler’s nephew, who has a very punchable face, everyone brings some much needed charm and heart to this story about discovering yourself as you are entering adulthood. The standouts are Matt Shively as Larry and Bridgit Mendler as Meredith who have some of the best lines and character moments, although Shively’s character arc takes an abrupt and cliched turn.
Overall, Father of the Year is a passable comedy that shows a promising future and a new direction for this brand of humour. While the premise is not able to sustain itself with an improperly focused script and some unbearable characters, the younger cast brings enough heart to their coming of age tale to bring some life to this dull father fight. It wastes its potential, but manages to land awkwardly on its own two feet.
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