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Hey, here's a stretch, Adam Sandler plays a well meaning dimwit who defies the odds and makes good, saves the day, and wins the girl. Sound like Happy Gilmore? Billy Madison maybe? Yeah, there's definitely a resemblance but this time around we're talking about The Waterboy, a fairly watered down PG-13 sports comedy that came out a decade or so ago in 1998.
The well meaning dimwit this time around is Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler), a thirty-one year old who takes his job as the waterboy for the University of Louisiana's football team, The Cougars, way too seriously for his own good. The team's coach, Red Beaulieu (the late, great Jerry Reed), not only allows the oafish team members to pick on Bobby for his stutter and his socially awkward ways, but he joins in and eventually fires him. Unsure what to do, he takes some solace with his incredibly overprotective mother (Kathy Bates) before taking a position as the waterboy for less impressive South Central Louisiana State University's Mud Dogs, lead by timid Coach Klein (Henry Winkler).
When Klein sees Bobby tackle a player like a freight train, he sees in him his change to end the team's forty-game losing streak and he heads over to the Boucher place for a lovely dinner or snake meat to try and convince the man child to play for him. Bobby's mother, however, doesn't want her son to have any part of this 'foosball' and forbids him from joining the team even if it would mean a sports scholarship for him. Klein tells Bobby that his mother forbade him to get a Roy Orbison tattoo and that he did it anyway because 'what momma doesn't know won't hurt her' and so Bobby agrees to play and sure enough, he brings the team to the playoffs. Along the way, we learn about Klein's rivalry with Beaulieu and of Bobby's blossoming and awkward romance with Vicki Vallencourt (Fairuza Balk), who shows him her boobies and drives around on a riding lawnmower with him. When Beaulieu realizes Bobby's abilities, however, he decides to play dirty and to try and stop him from playing in the Bourbon Bowl, where the two teams are to square off for the championship...
A typical and completely predictable underdog sports story, The Waterboy is completely devoid of suspense because you know very early on just exactly how it's all going to end. That said, there are enough decent gags in here that the movie is a decent enough time killer. Winkler and Reed are great as the rival couches with Reed playing his part as a completely over the top redneck type while Winkler takes the opposite approach, his character more of the defeated type. They both do quite well in their roles and Kathy Bates is perfect as the overbearing, smothering mother type who sees everything as threat to her relationship with her son. Sandler basically plays the same character he's played in other films, this time adding a stutter and an accent to the part to give him some local flavor. He's good at these types of roles even if they usually feel like an extension of the characters that he'd often play during his tenure on Saturday Night Live.
Entertaining enough as it may be, the film is still a series of tired clichés. There's nothing original here and nothing that we haven't seen in earlier and better films. The whole thing feels very familiar and while, sure, the ending is marginally inspiring in a cornball sort of way you can't help feeling like you've been here before. That said, the picture is paced well, contains enough amusing site gags and screwball moments to keep you laughing often enough and it looks good enough to work from a technical stand point. Keep your expectations in check and enjoy this one for the light and fluffy brainless comedy that it is.
The Waterboy looks pretty good in this 1080p AVC encoded 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are some inconsistencies in terms of detail and clarity in that some shots look a bit soft while others look nice and sharp but thankfully these don't dominate the transfer. The colors tend to run on the hot side, with the oranges of the football uniforms looking very bright and the skin tones sometimes having a bronze tint to them but the movie has always looked like this and this color schemes plays very nicely alongside the greens of the football fields and the more subdued color palettes used in the scenes that take place inside the school and inside the Boucher residence. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts or macro-blocking though you might spot some mild edge enhancement if you're looking for it. Overall, however this transfer is pretty solid and a noticeable improvement over the film's standard DVD release.
The primary audio option on this release is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track though optional standard definition audio options are supplied in Spanish, Portuguese and French with subtitles in English, French, Spanish and a myriad of other languages. How does the DTS-HD track shape up? Quite nicely, even if it won't blow you away. You'll really notice the strong low end during the football scenes where Bobby tackles the various players. You can hear and almost feel the hits when your subwoofer kicks in. That said, there isn't much going on in the way of rear channel activity and this is a very front heavy mix. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout playback and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to report. The levels are properly balanced and everything comes through with a nice clarity to it but there just isn't as much surround activity as maybe there could have been, though the scenes that take place during the Bourbon Bowl show off some nice directional effects. All in all, while this isn't a demo disc in terms of the audio mix, it sounds pretty good.
Aside from some menus and chapter selection, there are no extras whatsoever on this Blu-ray release, not even a trailer.
The Waterboy may not be a comedy classic but it does have its moments. That said, while the audio and video transfer are upgrades over the standard definition release even if they could have been better, it's hard to recommend a barebones disc at this price point. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.