The Waterboy

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The Waterboy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Coraci
Produced by
Written byTim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Music byAlan Pasqua
CinematographySteven Bernstein
Edited byTom Lewis
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • November 6, 1998 (1998-11-06)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[1]
Box office$190 million[1]

The Waterboy is a 1998 American sports comedy film directed by Frank Coraci and starring Adam Sandler in the title role, Kathy Bates, Fairuza Balk, Henry Winkler, Jerry Reed, Larry Gilliard, Jr., Blake Clark, Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran. It was 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 film was extremely profitable, earning $39.4 million in its opening weekend alone in the United States,[2] earning a total of $190 million worldwide.


Robert "Bobby" Boucher, Jr. is a socially inept, stuttering thirty-one year-old somewhat mentally challenged water boy of the University of Louisiana football program.[3] He lives with his overprotective and extremely religious mother, Helen, and believes his father, Robert Sr., died of dehydration in the Sahara while serving in the Peace Corps back in the end of the 1960s.

As the players constantly bully Boucher, the Cougars' head coach, Red Beaulieu, fires Boucher, claiming that he has been disruptive during the 18 years of his employment. Bobby approaches Coach Klein of the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs and is hired as the team's water boy.

The Mud Dogs have lost forty consecutive games, their cheerleaders are alcoholics, and players are forced to share equipment due to budget cuts. When the new team teases him, Klein encourages Bobby to stand up for himself. Remembering all the bullying he has put up with over the years, Bobby tackles the team's quarterback, knocking him out. Seeing Boucher's potential, Klein meets with Helen and tries to persuade her to let Bobby play on the team, but she refuses, saying it is too dangerous.

Klein convinces Bobby to play without letting Helen know, seeing that Bobby is eager to attend college. Bobby becomes a feared linebacker, with Klein telling him to visualize his enemies angering him and use the feelings for motivation. The Mud Dogs go on a winning streak. Bobby's newfound fame and confidence also allow him to reconnect with his childhood crush, Vicki Vallencourt, who has been in prison multiple times. Helen forbids Bobby from seeing her, warning him that girls (and basically everything else in pop culture) "is the devil".

The team's success earns it a trip to the annual Bourbon Bowl on New Year's Day to face the Cougars and Coach Beaulieu. However, Beaulieu and his team crash the Mud Dogs' pep rally and reveal that Bobby never finished high school since he was homeschooled, and his fake high school transcript makes him ineligible for college and football. The team and fans turn against Bobby, believing him to be a liar and cheater.

Coach Klein convinces NCAA to let Bobby play if he can pass a GED exam. He apologizes to Bobby and admits to submitting the fake transcript because he was desperate to get even with Beaulieu. Back in 1978 (20 years prior), Klein and Beaulieu used to be assistant coaches at the University of Louisiana. Beaulieu bullied Klein out of his playbook, took credit for his ideas, got promoted to head coach, and then fired Klein.

The experience drove Klein to a mental breakdown, making him unable to come up with new plays. The story convinces Bobby to help Klein get revenge on Beaulieu and prove himself to everyone. Helen nags Bobby while he is studying for the GED, driving him to finally stand up to her once and for all. He angrily reveals that he has been playing football, going to college, and seeing Vicki, and intends to continue doing so.

Bobby passes the exam, but Helen feigns a coma. Feeling he drove his mother to illness, Bobby stays in the hospital with her. Meanwhile, Vicki spreads word 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. Seeing her son struggling to ignore his calling, Helen ends her fake illness. She tells Bobby his father, Robert Sr., was never in the Peace Corps, and in fact abandoned her while she was four months pregnant with Bobby to have an affair with a voodoo priestess in New Orleans. This led to Helen being constantly afraid that Bobby would leave her too. Deciding to put her son's happiness ahead of her own selfishness, she encourages him to play in the Bourbon Bowl.

Arriving at halftime, Bobby finds the Mud Dogs losing, 27–0. The team apologize for not treating him with the respect he deserves. With Bobby's help, Coach Klein overcomes his fear of Beaulieu by visualizing him as various things he's not afraid of, and comes up with new plays. The Mud Dogs begin to catch up, unsettling Beaulieu, who resorts to underhanded tactics to save his and the team's honor. Helen helps by sobering up the team's cheerleaders in making coffee, while Vicki fills in for Bobby's usual waterboy duties. The Mud Dogs win the Bourbon Bowl, 30–27. Bobby is named the MVP, all to the devastation of Beaulieu and the Cougars. Beaulieu even breaks down in tears, embarrassed that his team lost and is presumably fired as head coach.

Some time later, Bobby and Vicki get married. Bobby's father Robert Sr., who has since changed his name to Roberto, makes a surprise appearance to convince Bobby to skip school and go to the NFL so he can share in his son's newfound fame, citing the success of Tiger Woods and his father. He is tackled to the ground by an enraged Helen to the cheers of the attendants. Bobby and Vicki leave to consummate their marriage.



The idea for The Waterboy came from one of Sandler's Saturday Night Live characters. Sandler said "You could compare him to 'Canteen Boy,' whereas he does love water and they both get picked on a lot, but the thing I like the most about this character is just that he is a genuine, good person."[4]

Writer Tim Herlihy said the story was intended to invert the formula of his previous films, where Sandler was an extreme character surrounded by regular people. "With Happy Gilmore, [...] it was a very straight world that he was the disruptive element in. The pressure was all on Adam to be funny as Happy. Whereas this was like a funhouse, crazy version of Southern college football milieu. And it was the first movie where things were funny when Adam wasn’t on screen. The pressure wasn’t even on him."[5]

Herlihy could not believe their luck getting Kathy Bates to play Boucher's mother. Bates' agent did not want her to do the film, and Bates threw the script in the trash after reading some pages, not being interested in football. Her niece spotted the script and noticed Sandler's name, and convinced her to reconsider.[5]


Despite taking place in Louisiana, 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 Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The Camping World Stadium 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" lecture 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.


The Waterboy: Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedNovember 3, 1998 (1998-11-03)

The soundtrack for The Waterboy was released on November 3, 1998 by Hollywood Records.[6]

1."Born on the Bayou"Creedence Clearwater Revival5:15
2."More Today Than Yesterday"Goldfinger3:22
3."Boom Boom"Big Head Todd and the Monsters3:33
4."Feed It"The Candyskins3:35
5."Peace Frog"The Doors2:57
6."Let's Groove"Earth, Wind & Fire5:38
7."Always on the Run"Lenny Kravitz3:53
8."Doin' My Thang"Incidents / Lifelong4:10
9."Small Town"John Mellencamp3:40
10."New Year's Eve"Joe Walsh4:00
11."No One to Run With"The Allman Brothers Band5:58
12."Tom Sawyer"Rush4:34
13."Glowing Soul"Candlebox4:18
Total length:54:53


Critical response[edit]

As of August 2020, review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported the film had an approval rating of 34% based on 76 reviews with an average rating of 4.56/10. The site's critical consensus read: "The Waterboy is an insult to its genre with low humor and cheap gags."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 41% based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A-" on scale of A to F.[9]

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."[10] 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."[11]

Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post described the movie as "[a]nother film about . . . a cretinous, grating loser."[12] Manohla Dargis of LA Weekly gave the film a mixed review, writing: "Of course it's dumb, but every 10 minutes or so, it's also pretty funny."[13] Glen Lovell of Variety wrote of the film, "This yahoos on the bayou farce is neither inventive nor outrageous enough."[14] David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews also gave the film a mixed review, calling it "an agreeable yet forgettable comedy."[15]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote the film was "so cheerfully outlandish that it's hard to resist, and so good hearted that it's genuinely endearing."[16] Mark Savlov of The Austin Chronicle also gave the film a positive review, writing that it was "A mildly amusing bayou farce with plenty of 'foosball' action to liven the sometimes plodding proceedings."[17]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $161,491,646 in the United States, and a further $28,700,000 internationally, for a worldwide total of $190,191,646 worldwide, against an estimated production budget of $20 million.[1] The film opened at number 1 at the US box office, earning $39,414,071 in its opening weekend,[1][2] a record opening for November.[18] The trailer for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was released alongside the film, in its second week.[19]

The film was released in the United Kingdom on April 30, 1999, and topped the country's box office that weekend.[20] As of 2020, The Waterboy is the highest-grossing film in the sports comedy genre.[21]


For his role Sandler was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.[22] Likewise, the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards awarded him Most Annoying Fake Accent in 1998. He also won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award and a MTV Movie Award for his performance.


  1. ^ a b c d "The Waterboy (1998) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b "The Waterboy". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ "Movie/TV helmets". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  4. ^ Bill Tush (November 11, 1998). "CNN - Adam Sandler's latest triumph: 'Waterboy' - November 11, 1998". CNN. Archived from the original on 2001-05-29.
  5. ^ a b Kirshner, Alex (6 November 2018). "How the people behind 'The Waterboy' created a cult classic".
  6. ^ "The Waterboy - Original Soundtrack - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic.
  7. ^ "The Waterboy Review". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  8. ^ "The Waterboy". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  9. ^ "WATERBOY, THE (1998) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. "THE WATERBOY". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  11. ^ Alspector, Lisa. "The Waterboy Review". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael. "The Waterboy". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla. "The Waterboy Review". Archived from the original on 2008-01-15.
  14. ^ Lovell, Glen. "Waterboy Review". Variety. Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  15. ^ Nusair, David. "The Waterboy (July 10/10)". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet. "The Waterboy (1998) FILM REVIEW; Md Dogs! Mud Dogs! Rah Rah Rah!". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  17. ^ Savlov, Mark. "The Waterboy". Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  18. ^ BRIDGET BYRNE (November 8, 1998). "Waterboy Makes Record Splash". E! Online.
  19. ^ Erik Hayden (November 24, 2014). "'Star Wars' Flashback: What Happened When 'The Phantom Menace' Teaser Debuted". The Hollywood Reporter.
  20. ^ "UK Weekend Box Office 30th April 1999 - 2nd May 1999". Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  21. ^ "Sports Comedy Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo.
  22. ^ "1998 Golden Raspberry Award". Awards & Winners. Retrieved 15 April 2018.

External links[edit]