The Waterboy

For other uses, see Water boy (disambiguation).
The Waterboy
Directed by Frank Coraci
Produced by
Written by Tim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Music by Alan Pasqua
Cinematography Steven Bernstein
Edited by Tom Lewis
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 6, 1998 (1998-11-06)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million
Box office $186 million

The Waterboy is a 1998 American sports comedy film directed by Frank Coraci (who played Robert 'Roberto' Boucher, Sr.), starring Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk, Henry Winkler, Jerry Reed (his last film role before his death in 2008), Larry Gilliard, Jr., Blake Clark, Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran, and produced by Robert Simonds and Jack Giarraputo.

Lynn Swann, Lawrence Taylor, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Cowher, Paul "The Big Show" Wight and Rob Schneider have cameo appearances. The movie was extremely profitable, earning $161.5 million in North America alone.[1] This was Sandler's second film to eclipse $120 million worldwide in 1998 along with The Wedding Singer.[1]

Adam Sandler's character, Bobby Boucher (pronounced /bˈʃ/ boo-SHAY), bears a strong resemblance to his "The Excited Southerner" comedic skits from his album What the Hell Happened to Me? The portrayal is one of a stereotypical Cajun from the bayous of South Louisiana, not the typical stereotype of a Southerner. He also shares similarities in speech and mannerism to Canteen Boy, a recurring character, also portrayed by Sandler, on Saturday Night Live.[2] Like Bobby, Canteen Boy was a soft-spoken manchild who preferred "purified water, right out of the old canteen," which he always carried with him.


Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) is a socially inept, 31-year-old water boy with a stutter and hidden anger issues due to frequent teasing by his peers and excessive sheltering by his mother, Helen (Kathy Bates). As a teenager, Bobby became the water boy for the (fictional) University of Louisiana Cougars, a major championship-caliber college program,[3] after being told his father died of dehydration in the Sahara while serving in the Peace Corps. However, the players always torment him and the team's head coach, Red Beaulieu (Jerry Reed), eventually fires him for "disrupting" the team's practices (in actuality, the coach had fired Bobby because he's too weak for his team to bully). Bobby then approaches Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) of the far more austere (fictional) South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs and asks to work as the team's water boy. Coach Klein has been coach of SCLSU for years without success. It is revealed later in the movie that he and Beaulieu were assistant coaches at the University of Louisiana, but Beaulieu bullied Klein into letting him take sole credit for a playbook (that Klein actually came up with on his own) to earn the head coach job and then immediately fired Klein. The experience drove Klein to a mental breakdown and rendered him unable to come up with new plays. Furthermore, unlike the Cougars, the Mud Dogs are a struggling team both on and off the field. They have lost 40 consecutive games, their cheerleaders have become alcoholics, and players are forced to share equipment. Bobby insists he be the waterboy after seeing a keg of heavily polluted water that coach Klein had been offering his players. Klein, despite being impressed with a sample of Bobby's water, tells him he cannot hire anybody due to the team's financial issues, but Bobby agrees to work for free.

Bobby's mother informs him of the evils of football (which she refers to as "foosball") and prevents him from playing. She also mentions that unlike everyone else who shows contempt for him, Helen is the only one who unconditionally loves him. After being picked on again by his new team, Coach Klein encourages Bobby to stand up for himself which leads to him tackling and knocking out the team's quarterback. Coach Klein begs Bobby to join the team but he refuses as his mother would never approve. Coach Klein then meets with Bobby and his mother and attempts to convince her to let Bobby play by emphasizing that Bobby can get a college education. But she refuses despite Bobby's interest. Coach Klein convinces Bobby to join in secret (from his mother) saying that "what mama don't know, won't hurt her". Bobby quickly becomes one of the most feared linebackers in college football, hitting opposing players with injury-causing force. In his first game, Bobby causes a turnover that costs the team the win, angering them to the point that they completely overlook Bobby scoring an NCAA record of 16 sacks in the game. Despite this, the Mud Dogs win their next game when Bobby scores a safety on the final play, ending their long losing streak. The Mud Dogs go on a winning streak and earn a trip to the annual Bourbon Bowl to face the Cougars and Coach Beaulieu. Bobby's newfound fame also allows him to rekindle a relationship with his childhood friend and crush, Vicki Vallencourt (Fairuza Balk), who has been in prison multiple times. However, Helen forbids Bobby from seeing her again (telling him that girls are "the devil").

Coach Beaulieu crashes the Mud Dogs' pep rally and reveals that Bobby never finished high school and his high school transcript was fake (as the school doesn't even exist and Bobby was homeschooled by his mother), making him ineligible for college and football. The team and fans label him a "cheater" and snub him. The next day, Klein pulls some strings and the NCAA agrees to let Bobby compete in the Bourbon bowl if he can pass a GED exam. Bobby is reluctant as he feels he has become public enemy number one of the town and is angered over the fact that someone set him up. At that point Klein apologizes and admits he submitted the fake transcript because he was desperate to get even with Beaulieu. Klein tells Bobby about his past with Beaulieu, and the story convinces Bobby to take the exam to help Klein get revenge on Beaulieu and prove to everyone he's not a "dummy". While studying, Bobby inadvertently reveals to his mother that he's been playing football, going to college and seeing Vicki. This leads to them having a fight with Bobby lashing out over his mother's constant sheltering of him, saying he'll continue to defy her because he enjoys school and football and Vicki showing him her breasts. Bobby easily passes the exam, scoring a 97%, but his mother then fakes falling ill to keep Bobby from playing. Bobby refuses to ever play football again, feeling he drove his mother to illness, and stays in the hospital with his mother. Meanwhile, Vicki spreads word around the community of Bobby passing the exam. This leads to a gathering of fans at the hospital who apologize for not supporting him and try to convince him to play. Bobby however, refuses and Helen ends her fake illness after seeing the error of her ways. The next day, Helen tells Bobby the truth about his father, Robert Sr., and why she was faking her illness. Years ago through the letters she had, Bobby learns that his father found work in New Orleans, changed his name to Roberto and abandoned a pregnant Helen for a voodoo priestess. This in turn led Helen to excessively shelter Bobby all his life, afraid he would abandon her like Roberto did and forced Bobby to abandon the community who depends on him. Helen realizes the best thing for her to do is let him go since he has made a lot of friends and encourages him to play in the Bourbon Bowl because it means so much to him and the community.

Arriving at halftime of the Bourbon Bowl with Helen and Vicki, Bobby finds the team is losing 27-0 and has all but given up. Bobby manages to encourage the losing Mud Dogs to make a comeback. The team apologizes for not treating him with the respect he deserves and admit that he has become the heart and soul of the team. With Bobby's help, Coach Klein overcomes his fear of Red Beaulieu and visualizing him as someone or something he isn't afraid of (a reverse of the advice he gave Bobby to visualize a previous foe and attack), which helps him create new plays that allow the Mud Dogs to catch up. This doesn't settle in well with Red, realizing that the previous playbook he had stolen credit from Klein has backfired on him and begins to show desperation (such as resorting to the quarterback kneel to neutralize Bobby and run out the clock) to save his perfect season. Helen helps the cheerleaders out by making coffee and it helps sober them up as they cheer their fans on to rally and renounces her previous hatred of football, while Vicki is seen giving out water to the Mud Dogs (filling in for Bobby's usual waterboy duties) She is interviewed by Lynn Swann and predicts the Mud Dogs will win 30-27. On the next to last play, after recovering a kick-off, Greg Meaney (an enemy of Bobby's from his time with the Cougars) lands an illegal hit on Bobby and knocks him out, which leads to his ejection much to Red's detest. Vicki revives him however with a bottle of special water (which always stays cold) he had previously given her as a gift. During the final play, a halfback option, Bobby throws a touchdown pass and the Mud Dogs win the Bourbon Bowl by a score of 30-27 (just as Vicki predicted), leaving Red embarrassed that his perfect season for the Cougars is gone. Bobby is named the MVP.

Later, Bobby and Vicki get married and are heading to the riding lawn mower. On their way out, Bobby's father (Frank Coraci in a cameo role) makes an unexpected appearance, telling him that he heard from ESPN that he may go to the NFL. Bobby tells him that he is not going to the NFL because he wants to stay in school and graduate. Roberto angrily tries to get him to skip school and go to the NFL, hoping to personally profit as the father of an NFL player (citing the success Tiger Woods and his father have had). He is quickly tackled to the ground by an enraged Helen for this (and out of revenge against Roberto for leaving her years ago), much to the cheers of the crowd. Bobby and Vicki leave to consummate their marriage.[4]


Filming and production

The Waterboy was mostly filmed in the Central Florida and Orlando area as well as around Daytona Beach, DeLand, Florida, Lakeland, Florida, and surrounding areas.

The Mud Dogs home games were filmed at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand, Florida, home of the local high school team (the DHS Bulldogs). The classrooms and gym where Bobby takes the GED are part of Stetson University, also located in DeLand. Stetson's Carlton Student Union building is featured in the scene where Bobby is told his mother has been hospitalized.

The scenes involving mama's cabin were shot on Lake Louisa, in Clermont, Florida.

Coach Klein's (Henry Winkler's) office was a stage built inside of the Florida Army National Guard Armory in DeLand, Florida. It is home of Btry B 1st Bn 265th ADA. If one was to look closely, in the background of the practice field scenes, they can see the Armory and some military vehicles.

The initial exterior shot of the University of Louisiana stadium was EverBank Field in Jacksonville; the interior of the stadium is actually the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The Citrus Bowl was also the filming location for the climatic Bourbon Bowl game, while the flyover shot at the beginning of the game is of Williams-Brice Stadium at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.

The "medulla oblongata" scene was filmed at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. The extras in the scene were students at the college, and the scene was shot on campus in Edge Hall.

Critical reception

The Waterboy received mostly mixed to negative reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, 35% of the reviews were positive, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The site's consensus says "The Waterboy is an insult to its genre with low humor and cheap gags."[5] At Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 41%, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times gave the film a negative review, saying "Sandler is making a tactical error when he creates a character whose manner and voice has the effect of fingernails on a blackboard, and then expects us to hang in there for a whole movie."[7] Lisa Alspector of the Chicago Reader also gave the film a negative review, writing "Geek-triumphs-after-all comedies can be charming, but in this one the triumphing begins so early it's hard to feel for the geek."[8] Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post described the movie as "Another film about . . . a cretinous, grating loser."[9]

Manhola Dargins of L.A Weekly gave the film a mixed review, writing: "Of course it's dumb, but every 10 minutes or so, it's also pretty funny."[10] Glen Lovell of Variety said of the film, "This yahoos-on-the-bayou farce is neither inventive nor outrageous enough.".[11] David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews also gave the film a mixed review, calling it "an agreeable yet forgettable comedy".[12]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times said the film was "so cheerfully outlandish that it's hard to resist, and so good-hearted that it's genuinely endearing.".[13] Mark Savlov of the Austin Chronicle also gave the film a positive review and said the film was "A mildly amusing bayou farce with plenty of 'foosball' action to liven the sometimes plodding proceedings."[14]

The film grossed $185,991,646 worldwide from a $20 million budget.[15]

Regardless, the film has garnered a large cult following since its release, and is often regarded by its fans as the most quotable of Sandler's movies.

Awards and nominations

For his role Sandler was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. The film was also a nominee for the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs.[16]


  1. 1 2 "Box Office Mojo".
  2. Nguyen, Vi-an (July 11, 2013). "15 Movie Stars Who Got Their Starts on Saturday Night Live". Parade Magazine. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  3. "Movie/TV helmets". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  4. marriage
  5. "The Waterboy Review". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  6. "The Waterboy". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  7. Ebert, Roger. "THE WATERBOY". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  8. Alspector, Lisa. "The Waterboy Review". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  9. O'Sullivan, Michael. "The Waterboy". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  10. Dargins, Manhola. "The Waterboy Review".
  11. Lovell, Glen. "Waterboy Review". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  12. Nusair, David. "The Waterboy (July 10/10)". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  13. Maslin, Janet. "The Waterboy (1998) FILM REVIEW; Md Dogs! Mud Dogs! Rah Rah Rah!". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  14. Savlov, Mark. "The Waterboy". Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  15. "The Waterboy". IMDb. IMDb. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  16. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-04.
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