In this dramatic and disturbing re-imagining of the 1990s comedy The Waterboy, Bale stars as Robert Boucher, a socially inept, possibly autistic young man living in Southern Louisiana, where he has been excessively sheltered and home-schooled by his over-protective, deeply Christian mother. His only social outlet is serving as the waterboy for the University of Louisiana Cougars, a role in which he is constantly teased, tormented, and abused.
At the opening of the film, Boucher is nearly thirty, but still serving water to the members of the UL Cougars, while living at home with his mother. However, it is revealed that Boucher has anger issues when one of the Cougars knocks over his water station, and he responds by attacking the football player, ultimately beating him into unconsciousness with a folding chair.
This incident results in several changes in Boucher’s life. The first is that he is arrested but then released on bail, with a pending trial warming up as the man he attacked lies in a coma in the hospital. Boucher’s state-appointed defense lawyer is Lawrence Briggs (Will Smith), an ambitious lawyer who has faced large amounts of racism in his struggle to become a lawyer in the Deep South. Smith encourages Boucher to become involved in some sort of community service… leading to him becoming the waterboy for a different college football team, coached by Coach Klein (Ed Harris), who recognizes Boucher’s undiagnosed handicap as autism. Between these two new role models, Boucher appears to have new hope in life. Klein encourages Boucher to attend the college and even try playing on the field, after they discover that he has a knack for tackling his opponents. Unfortunately, the press begins to invade his life as his coma-stricken victim does not show signs of recovery, and his mother continues to cloud his mind with violent and paranoid thoughts. As Boucher’s lawyer, Briggs attempts to shield Boucher from the press but fails to prevent him from attacking a persistent tabloid journalist. The plot escalates as Boucher is driven to greater acts of violence – both on and off the football field, with the film building to a disturbing climax of violence and murder in which Briggs and Klein are ultimately revealed to be hopeless in changing the fate of Boucher.
Kathy Bates will be reprising her role from the original Waterboy, as Mrs. Boucher.