The XFL, Vince McMahon’s more extreme football league, has cancelled their inaugural season and has not announced any plans to return next year. Hopes for the NBA to salvage their season are dwindling, and the summer MLB season is highly in doubt. For those who are missing their sports fix ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’ has you covered. Today we look at the 1998 football comedy, The Waterboy.

Get ready to laugh as Adam Sandler tackles his way to greatness in the Touchstone Pictures film.

The Movie

Bobby Boucher, played by Adam Sandler, is the water boy for a Louisiana University football team. He is relentlessly teased, assaulted by the players, and ultimately fired by the coach Red Beaulieu played by Jerry Reed, for being a distraction to the players. Bobby is sad about losing his job, but he gets no support at home from his mom, played by Kathy Bates. To Momma Boucher, everything is the devil, and now Bobby can spend more time with her at home.

Bobby actively looks for a new water boy job and ends up at South Central Louisiana State University where he meets Coach Kline, played by Henry Winkler, coach of the struggling Mud Dogs football team. Kline likes Bobby but can’t pay him to be water boy so Bobby volunteers to do the job for free.

Coach Kline takes Bobby under his wing and encourages him to stand up for himself when others tease him. Bobby listens to what Kline says and after years of being teased, he gets angry and tackles a football player unconscious. This feat of strength stuns the team. Kline knows a miracle when he sees one and recruits Bobby to play football for the SCLU Mud Dogs.

Bobby begins to gain fame for his skills on the field. Harnessing the anger that he has always repressed over being teased, Bobby Boucher becomes a force of strength for the struggling Mud Dogs. He has his high points and low points, but thanks to Bobby, the Mud Dogs make it to a bowl game against Louisiana University coached by Red Beaulieu.

Coach Kline is terrified of the matchup because Red has always intimidated him. Thanks to Bobby’s positive attitude and encouragement, Coach Kline finds the strength to face Beaulieu and starts to develop new football plays, which he hasn’t been able to do in decades. Bobby is an inspiration to his team and school. His Momma learns that she needs to let her boy grow up, go to school, and even get married to his girlfriend, Vicki Vallencourt, played by Fairuza Balk.

The Best

The Waterboy is not meant to be a high brow comedy that lets you critique the college admission scandals, bullying, or parental smothering. The film’s premise is all about how one guy harnesses his rage at mistreatment in an appropriate manner on the football field. While Adam Sandler mimics the silliness of many SNL characters and his breakout hit Billy Madison, he brings an innocence to Bobby Boucher, who is just trying to help others. The fact that the football players are truly awful to him, and yet Bobby still wants to be the water boy speaks to the kind nature of his character. Sandler makes him sympathetic, but also shows how smart Bobby is. From mixing the water to achieve the proper pH balance and thus create the most refreshing drink, to passing his GED with a high mark, Bobby Boucher is more than just a silly man child character.

Jerry Reed is perfect as Coach Beaulieu. He is the stereotypical hard-nosed coach who only cares about winning, and when he notices the abuse Bobby takes from his players, rather than doing the right thing and stopping it, he sees Bobby as a distraction to the players and fires him. Reed oozes awfulness as Beaulieu, and the audience will love it.

Henry Winkler is the opposite of Reed as Coach Kline. Much like Boucher, Kline has been hiding his whole life because of the bullying of Beaulieu. Kline has been a failure, but as he steps in to teach Bobby to stand up for himself, Boucher does the same thing for Kline. Winkler’s Kline is the good uncle that Bobby has needed his whole life.

Kathy Bates seems to be having the most fun she has ever had on the silver screen. Her smothering parental approach to Bobby has kept her son from growing up. Bates is hilarious as the doting mother who has been hurt, and only wants to keep her son safe.

The Worst

The humor is moronic, the script is mediocre, and the jokes are silly. If you are not a fan of Adam Sandler or this type of comedy, then The Waterboy is not for you. My wife left the room five minutes after I started the film, and she can usually sit through anything.

Film Facts

  • Football great Lawrence Taylor has a cameo in the film.
  • Director Frank Coraci and Sandler originally worked on The Wedding Singer.
  • Sandler friend Rob Schneider has a cameo as the man who chants “You can do it”.
  • WWE wrestler Paul Wight ‘The Big Show’ plays Captain Insano.
  • Clint Howard, brother of director Ron Howard, plays one of the rabid fans
  • The Walt Disney Company was sued in 2000 by the granddaughter of silent screen star Harold Lloyd. It was alleged in the suit that the film was a copy of the 1925 silent film classic, The Freshman. Disney won the suit in 2002.
  • Director Frank Coraci plays Bobby’s dad at the end of the film.
  • The late great film critic Roger Ebert hated this film. He listed The Waterboy on his ‘Most Hated’ list.
  • The Waterboy was the last screen appearance by Jerry Reed.
  • Most of the football scenes were filmed in Florida, not Louisiana.  

See It/Skip It?

See It! What else are you doing at home right now. The Waterboy is not Citizen Kane, but right now we need to laugh. If you have any thought about seeing a serious sports film, then The Waterboy is not for you. However, it does have great football scenes, and for those that are looking for a sports fix and miss the XFL (does anyone miss that), then The Waterboy is your best bet.

The Waterboy sits at a 35% rotten score on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, but it holds a 71% approval rating on the audience score level. Sometimes a silly laugh is just what you need, and in these global pandemic times, we could all use a laugh. Ariana Grande recently did a variety of Bobby Boucher impressions on Instagram while in self isolation at home, with Sandler responding positively to her work. The Waterboy is well remembered by fans for good reason.

Next week, ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’ looks at the 1999 hockey themed Hollywood Pictures film, Mystery, Alaska.   

Director: Frank Coraci

Production Company: Touchstone Pictures

Principal Cast:

  • Adam Sandler as Bobby Boucher
  • Kathy Bates as Momma Boucher
  • Henry Winkler as Coach Kline
  • Fairuza Balk as Vicki Vallencourt
  • Jerry Reed as Red Beaulieu          

Release Date: November 6, 1998

Budget: $23 million

Box Office Gross North America= $161,491, 646

                      Worldwide Total = $185,991,646