Bobby Boucher, Jr. (Sandler) has been shut off from the real world by his overbearing Mama (Kathy Bates), save for his eighteen years of experience as a water boy for the local College football team, the University of Louisiana Cougars, where he has been continually teased and taunted by the players, in large part for his almost maniacal devotion to providing them with the highest quality H2O imaginable. When Coach Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed) has had enough of Boucher's selfless acts, he banishes Boucher from the team, forcing him to take his talents to the inept rival South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs football team, led by Coach Klein (Henry Winkler).
When the teasing continues, Coach Klein encourages Bobby to stand up for himself, and years of bullying and berating reach a head, culminating in the release of a football stadium-sized can of whoop ass. Turns out, when his anger is focused, Bobby can plow through anyone he feels has disrespected him, turning him into the ultimate linebacker. Boucher now has to hide his desire to play football, and go to school, from his Mama, while also dealing with his first female "interest" in Vicki Vallencourt (Fairuza Balk), his inexperience at the game of football, and the pressure of being his team's only hope: a living tackling machine.
It's hard to watch 'The Waterboy' and feel you're seeing anything new. After 'Happy Gilmore,' Sandler's previous sports romp that took on hockey and golf, a Sandler sports comedy that breaks conventions is a bit too "been there, done that" for my tastes. Sure, Sandler gave his character a slight twist, with a stuttering speech impediment, a different kind of parent figure, and a new setting, but in the end, it's far too similar to his previous works, including the Excited Southerner skits from his 'What the Hell Happened to Me?' special.
'The Waterboy' can be extremely fun at times, especially the interactions between Sandler and Kathy Bates. The "truths" Mama instills in Bobby are hilarious, while still revealing the fact that she doesn't want to lose the one person in her life. Bobby's search for a father figure is somewhat obvious, even if it isn't directly inferred, as he forms a close bond with Henry Winkler's Coach Klein.
Still, 'The Waterboy' is also plagued with the same ol' shit disease, as the film just feels too close to Sandler's other early works, both in stand-up comedy and film. The obligatory Rob Schneider appearance hadn't yet worn thin in 'The Waterboy,' but all these years later, it's somewhat painful, even if Sandler's friend delivers the film's most memorable line. 'The Waterboy' has aged very poorly, grabbing desperately for laughs, often falling short, and killing the replay value in the process. In subsequent years, you can almost see where Sandler and Co. have just copy and pasted the same lines, jokes and cameos into each of their subsequent projects, just making the gags' original appearances in films like 'Waterboy' seem all the more stale and desperate.
Hoo boy! If 'The Waterboy' can do it all night long, why couldn't it do something simple, like have more consistent video qualities. This AVC MPEG-4 encode is as much a curiosity as the character of Boucher.
Detail is strong for the most part, with solid facial features and textures coming into play. Edges are natural, and the soft grain level doesn't look smeared or rubbed. Colors are sharp and have a healthy pop, especially the orange and blue on the Mud Dogs uniforms and attire. Individual blades of grass are often visible, though there are times when the field looks like a neon blob, not exactly appealing to the eye.
Contrast is acceptable, though far from superb (and occasionally excessively glowing), while skin tones jump back and forth between natural and overblown. The darker shots bring out a bit of digital noise, while in day shots it's nowhere near as big an issue. There is a thin layer of dirt that dates the film, while a few softer shots (particularly those involving the riding mower) drag the quality shots around them right down the tubes. There are many issues with this video transfer, whether they can be blamed on the single layer disc or if they're inherent in the source is beyond me. The entire film was flat and very two dimensional. Compression artifacts were pretty easy to pick out. The opening shot of the Equivalency Examination scene looks flat horrific, with brightness cranked up beyond belief, while the shots behind Mama in the hospital look as though there's a fire in the room, with the entire background shifting like waves of heat. This Blu-ray also made the stands in the Bourbon Bowl sequence look horrific, due to the awful job done in replicating the audience to make the stadium appear full; this isn't so much the fault of the disc as it is the film itself, but damn if it isn't ugly as sin.
I wasn't all that awe-struck by the audio, either. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does a respectable job bringing 'The Waterboy' to life, but some films may just be beyond saving.
From the start, I had the severe urge to maim and/or slaughter, after having to sit through the menu audio for a few loops, translating the numerous subtitle options, then getting to hear the same music as soon as I turned on the film. I know, this isn't the fault of the film itself, but it was still annoying as all get out.
This track has some superb moments of clarity, especially early, with the water in Boucher's rigged backpack water tank swirling as he moves and gets harassed by the players. Dialogue is clear and comprehendible, save for every single line slurred by Mud Dogs assistant coach Farmer Fran.
Tackles from Boucher have a bass accompaniment, with a bit of motion from the rears moving forward as he moves in for the kill. Even his high pitched wailings accompanying these body shots have a motion effect toward the front of the room, a nice touch. There are also some good echoing effects, light bits of ambience from the rears to create fuller scenes, and some solid non-tackle LFE bumps underlining this mix. I found crowded moments to be hit or miss, with some scenes that should have had a rowdy presence through every speaker coming in dry and soft from the fronts, while other scenes were fully immersive. Some louder sounds, like yelling, don't show strong range, they're just flat awful, while moments of cheering can become muffled and indistinguishable.
Here is where things get nasty. Normally Disney releases come with a nice pile of extras, from pre-menu trailers to commentaries, numerous making of/behind the scenes features and deleted scenes. 'The Waterboy,' however, comes sans anything beyond a bevy of language options for the film itself (including many that are not listed in the tech specs on the packaging). No pre-menu trailers, nothing. This practice is questionable at best, but turns flat malicious and unforgivable due to an inflated 39.99 MSRP for a film that's eleven years old.
Honestly, I'm quite appalled at this release. I've always enjoyed the hell out of Disney's catalog offerings, finding that they often put in an extreme amount of effort, often far more than a film deserves. The inflated MSRP on 'The Waterboy,' coupled with a barebones release, and a middle of the road presentation don't exactly scream "must own!" It would be more honest if they put a paper insert in the case and said "Haha, fooled you!," knowing you can't return opened media products to stores. Gentlemen, that brings me to my final point: don't smoke crack, or buy this Blu-ray.
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