The Waterboy

USA 1998

Reviewed by Andrew O'Hehir


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Bobby Boucher, a simple 31-year-old, lives with his Cajun mother in the town of Jackson's Bayou, Louisiana. He is fired from his job as waterboy for the University of Louisiana's football team, despite his 18 years of loyalty in the face of constant abuse. His mother is delighted, since she wants Bobby to stay home, but he's despondent. He finds an unpaid job as waterboy for SCLSU, a backwoods college whose team has lost 40 games in a row. Coach Klein, who is recovering from a mental breakdown, soon discovers that when Bobby is reminded of all the humiliation he has suffered, he becomes a fearsome defensive player, able to tackle any opponent.

Bobby's fury drives SCLSU to a winning streak and an invitation to the Bourbon Bowl, where they will face the University of Louisiana and its coach Red Beaulieu, who fired Bobby and drove Coach Klein insane. Beaulieu learns that Bobby never attended high school and so is not eligible to play, and Bobby's mother learns to her horror that Bobby has been playing football and seeing a local bad girl named Vicki, both against her wishes. Bobby passes the high-school equivalency examination and the townspeople convince his mother to relent. On the day of the Bourbon Bowl, Bobby shows up at half-time, leads SCLSU to a last-second victory and then marries Vicki with his mother's blessing.


A witless and utterly predictable comic fantasy about a misfit turned hero - think of it as Forrest Gump-Lite, if such a thing were possible - The Waterboy stands or falls on the nerd-chic appeal of its stammering star Adam Sandler. A major box-office draw in the US after his roles in Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, Sandler is an agreeably buffoonish sketch comedian, a combination of Jerry Lewis, Andy Kaufman and the Three Stooges, with just a dash of Harpo Marx. Like each of those performers his persona is funniest in small doses, and to me he can grow awfully wearisome across the length of a feature film (although millions of moviegoers evidently disagree). Sandler's enormous popularity isn't easy to explain; he himself has wisecracked that he became a multimillionaire despite being neither handsome nor talented. Perhaps his appeal lies in the imperturbable good cheer he projects - Bobby Boucher's paroxysms of rage are funny precisely because Sandler's performance so rapidly returns to the happy median of a man visibly content with life. Seen in this light, he's the perfect comic for America's blindly optimistic long boom.

Between Sandler's wobbly Cajun accent, the film's laundry list of played-out Southern stereotypes and its setting amid the bewildering autumnal rituals of American college football, it's hard to know what sense British and European audiences will make of The Waterboy. Admittedly, it's gratifying to watch the polite and easily flustered Bobby pulverise opposing gridiron goons the first few times it happens. But as the virtually identical football-action sequences mount up, the enterprise feels increasingly shoddy and trivial. This is an entertainment designed to make you forget, albeit temporarily, that weak and vulnerable people all over the world are constantly victimised - and maybe there's nothing wrong with that goal. But The Waterboy is too dull and shallow to fulfil it; you can't help thinking that a real-world Bobby would never get the girl or play for the varsity team, but would just keep on smiling while he's tripped and spat on.

Imprisoned by the relentless clichés of Sandler and Tim Herlihy's screenplay, even the estimable Kathy Bates can do nothing with the part of Mama Boucher, who lives with a mule named Steve in a cluttered bayou shack where she's forever cooking alligators, snakes and squirrels. Fairuza Balk and Henry Winkler, however, are the film's bright spots. Balk vigorously attacks her role as Vicki, the trailer-trash tramp cum love interest who gets to utter the line: "I find Deputy Dawg very, very sexy." Winkler, a seasoned veteran of the broad, televisual comic style on display here (he was the Fonz in the television series Happy Days), plays the lovably hapless Coach Klein with cheerful restraint, even delicacy. The supporting cast of formulaic Louisiana eccentrics features Larry Gilliard Jr and Jonathan Loughran as Bobby's friendlier team-mates, along with Jerry Reed as the sadistic Coach Beaulieu.

Frank Coraci, who directed Sandler in The Wedding Singer, does nothing here to indicate that time ever passes or the weather ever changes in Jackson's Bayou. Every daytime scene has the bland, bright feeling of a Fourth of July parade. His two oft-repeated tricks are: the use of computer graphics to show how Bobby almost schizophrenically conflates his opponents with his tormentors; and the injection of well-known football commentators and coaches in forced, peripheral skits. Sandler is not to blame for the fact that audiences eat up his modest talent for clowning, most of it borrowed from other, better comedians. But surely he has the money and the clout to hire more skilful collaborators.


Robert Simonds
Jack Giarraputo
Tim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Director of Photography
Steven Bernstein
Tom Lewis
Production Designer
Perry Andelin Blake
Music/Orchestra Conductor
Alan Pasqua
©Touchstone Pictures
Production Companies
Touchstone Pictures presents a Robert Simonds/Jack Giarraputo production
Executive Producer
Adam Sandler
Ira Shuman
Associate Producers
Phyllis Alia
Michelle Holdsworth
Rita Smith
Production Co-ordinators
Leslie S. Stevens
Zoila Gomez
Unit Production Managers
Mark Indig
Ira Shuman
Location Manager
John Garrett
2nd Unit Director
Allan Graf
Assistant Directors
Marty Eli Schwartz
Adam Druxman
Michael E. Finn
Kurt T. Kulhanek
Leo Bauer
2nd Unit:
Adam Druxman
Marten W. Piccinini
Script Supervisors
Melinda Taksen
2nd Unit:
Jillian Amburgey
Roger Mussenden
LA Associate:
Karen Church
Florida Principal:
Ellen Jacoby
ADR Voice:
Terri Douglas
Caitlin McKenna
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Charles S. Cohen
Camera Operators
Stephen Campbell
William Papp
Frank M. Miller
2nd Unit:
Charles S. Cohen
Steve Andrich
William Papp
2nd Unit:
William Papp
Visual Effects
Flash Film Works
Visual Effects Supervisor:
David Fogg
Digital Compositors:
Dan Novy
Jeffrey Arnold
Bruce Pearson
Rotoscope Artist:
Etienne Terblanche
Visual Effects Editor:
Lincoln Kupchak
Digital Scanning/Laser Recording
Digital Filmworks
Additional Visual Effects
Dream Quest Images
Special Effects
Ken Gorrell
Art Director
Alan Au
Set Designer
Derrick Smith
Set Decorator
Barbara Peterson
Storyboard Artist
Mark Simon
Costume Designer
Tom Bronson
Costume Supervisor
David Rawley
Erin B. Koplow
Lee A. Grimes
2nd Unit:
Christine Wostak
Key Hair
Tish Simpson
Title Design
Buena Vista Imaging
Daniel Hamuy
Alan Pasqua
Music Supervisors
Michael Dilbeck
Brooks Arthur
Music Co-ordinators
Lori Lahman
Wende Geikie
Executive in Charge of Music for Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group
Kathy Nelson
Supervising Music Editor
Steve Lotwis
Music Editors
Stuart Grusin
Scott Grusin
Orchestra Recordist/Mixer
Dan Garcia
Rhythm Group Recordist/Mixer
Gabe Veltri
"Born on the Bayou" by John Fogerty, performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival; "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by Charlie Daniels, Tom Crain, Fred Edwards, Taz DiGregorio, Jim Marshall, Charlie Hayward; "Always on the Run" by Lenny Kravitz and Slash, performed by Lenny Kravitz; "Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker, performed by Big Head Todd & The Monsters; "Sooner or Later" by Miles Zuniga, performed by Fastball; "Space Atmo" by/performed by Klaus Stuehlen; "Block Rockin' Beats" by Tom Rowlands, Ed Simons, Jesse Bonds Weaver, performed by The Chemical Brothers; "Peace Frog" by Jim Morrison, Robbie Krieger, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek; "Feed It" by/performed by The Candyskins; "Sports Center Theme" by John Colby; "House of the Rising Sun" by Alan Price, performed by Eric Burdon; "Hail to the Chief/Drum Cadence" (trad) arranged by Gordon Henderson; "Let's Groove" by Maurice White, Wayne Vaughn, performed by Earth Wind & Fire; "Doin' My Thang" by Sherwin Charles, Ivan
Norwood, James Carter, Travis Lane, performed by Lifelong featuring Incident; contains a sample of "Best of My Love" by Maurice White, Al McKay; "Hooch" by Rich Bradley, Nate Brown, Craig Honeycutt, Wolfe Quinn, David Slankard, Steve Van Dan, performed by Everything; "Temptation" by Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown, performed by The University of Michigan Marching Band; "Entry Cadence" performed by The University of Michigan Marching Band; "Lonely Boy" by/performed by Andrew Gold; "Ring My Bell" by Frederick Knight, performed by Anita Ward; "Small Town" by/performed by John Mellencamp; "New Year's Eve" by Waddy Wachtel, Joe Walsh, performed by Joe Walsh; "ABC Sports Logo" by/performed by Anthony DiLorenzo, Vince Frates, Gwendolyn Thornton, Bryan Hofheins; "Hard Chargin'" by Stanley Dural Jr, performed by Buckwheat Zydeco; "Hawaiian War Chant" by Johnny Noble, Leleiohaku, performed by The University of Michigan Marching Band; "Join the Parade" by/performed by Keith Papworth; "Tom Sawyer" by Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, Pye Dubois, Alex Lifeson, performed by Rush; "Drum Cadence" performed by The UCLA Bruin Marching Band; "Band Drum Cadence" performed by Al Nelson; "King Cotton" by John Philip Sousa; "Open" by/performed by Tom Hedden; "No One to Run with" by John Prestia, Dickey Betts, performed by The Allman Brothers; "More Today than Yesterday" by Patrick Upton, performed by Goldfinger
Sound Design
Elmo Weber
Sound Mixer
Jay Meagher
2nd Unit Sound
Mark Weber
Re-recording Mixers
Scott Millan
Bob Beemer
Jim Fitzpatrick
Andrea Lakin
Brian Lucas
Supervising Sound Editors
Elmo Weber
Gregory M. Gerlich
Dialogue Editors
David Bach
Russell Farmarco
Stewart Nelsen
Robert Troy
Sound Effects
Al-Ling Lee
Derek Vanderhorst
Donna Lynn Biggs Weber
Paula Fairfield
David Bach
Russell Farmarco
Stewart Nelsen
Robert Troy
Paige Pollack
Adam DeCoster
Sharon Michaels
Warren Kleiman
Matt Beville
Football Team
Allan Graf
Head Trainer:
Kevin L. Mercuri
Robert Garrett
Stunt Co-ordinator
Allan Graf
Animals Provided by
Birds & Animals
Animal Supervisor
April Mackin
Adam Sandler
Bobby Boucher
Kathy Bates
Mama Boucher
Fairuza Balk
Vicki Vallencourt
Jerry Reed
Red Beaulieu
Henry Winkler
Coach Klein
Blake Clark
Farmer Fran
Larry Gilliard Jr
Derek Wallace
Peter Dante
Gee Grenouille
Jonathan Loughran
Lyle Robideaux
Al Whiting
Casey Bugge
Clint Howard
Allen Covert
Rob Schneider
Todd Holland
Greg Meaney
Robert Kokol
Frank Coraci
Jennifer Bini Taylor
James Bates
West Mississippi lineman
Kelly Hare
drunk cheerleader
Dawn Birch
Red's watergirl
Steve Raulerson
Sheriff Loughran
Chris Mugglebee
Sheriff Jack
Brett Rice
John Farley
Tony Dodd
Kevin Farley
Jim Simonds
Lee Corso
Bill Cowher
Dan Fouts
Chris Fowler
Jimmy Johnson
Brent Musburger
Dan Patrick
Lynn Swann
Lawrence Taylor
Paul 'The Giant' Wight
Captain Insano
Jamie Williams
young Bobby
Marc Kittay
youngest Bobby
Matt Baylis
Jack Carroll
Bible College coach
Tom Nowicki
Community College coach
Ric Swezey
male cheerleader
Matthew Lussier
Haven Gaston
Michael Hold
Central Kentucky quarterback
Kevin Reid
West Mississippi quarterback
Mattie Wolf
Cajun lady
Phyllis Alia
Dave Wagner
Tina Barr
Michael Giarraputo
Bourbon Bowl statistician
Marty Eli Schwartz
football team
Mike Hold
Pat O'Hara
Kevin Reid
Sean Weaver
Alton Gerod Davis
Horace Knight
Brian Osborn
running backs
Christopher C. Siegried
Altman R. Carter
wide receivers
Jeff Brockhaus
tight end
David Martin Golloher
Harry J. Harding
Mark Jackson
Kenneth C. McClendon
Eric Miller
Christopher C. Tabscott
offensive line
James Bates
Jermaine Benoit
Scott Smith
John Clark
Kevin S. Brown
Rick Hamilton
Corris Ervin
Lucruz A. Dunlop
defensive backs
Tarveres Tate
Marty Hochertz
Michael F. Osuna
Kenton Rickerson
Victor L. Hall
defensive line
Carlton Williams
Buena Vista International (UK)
8,073 feet
89 minutes 42 seconds
SDDS/Dolby digital/Digital DTS sound
In Colour
Prints by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011