Dumb comedy doesn't come much dumber than this. How dumb does The Waterboy get? Suffice it to say that Bates, an actress who has been associated with far better projects in her time (Titanic and Misery, to name two), is glimpsed here enthusiastically playing badminton with her pet mule. Hee-haw, indeed.
Waterboy is cowritten and produced by Sandler, the Saturday Night Live alum who is a Jim Carrey wannabe minus the talent. Sandler has built his movie career on playing sweet-natured dumbbells who win big. The formula worked for him in previous goofball-comedy hits (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore) and the slightly smarter The Wedding Singer, and he doesn't mess with it here.
In Waterboy, which will consistently amuse only children and frat boys (whatever their age), Sandler plays a 31-year-old naif from the swamps of Louisiana who volunteers to be the waterboy ("water distribution engineer" is the term he prefers) for a losing college football team. Soon the coach (Henry Winkler) discovers that Sandler can tackle and adds him to the roster. In helping to turn the squad around, Sandler also proves himself educable and wins the love of a biker chick (Fairuza Balk) and the respect of his domineering mom (Bates). Watching the Washington Redskins lose most weeks is funnier than this. (PG-13)