Director : Dennis Dugan
Screenplay : Adam Sandler & Fred Wolf
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Adam Sandler (Lenny Feder), Kevin James (Eric Lamonsoff), Chris Rock (Kurt McKenzie), David Spade (Marcus Higgins), Rob Schneider (Rob Hilliard), Salma Hayek (Roxanne Chase-Feder), Maria Bello (Sally Lamonsoff), Maya Rudolph (Deanne McKenzie), Joyce Van Patten (Gloria), Ebony Jo-Ann (Mama Ronzoni), Di Quon (Rita), Steve Buscemi (Wiley), Colin Quinn (Dickie Bailey), Tim Meadows (Malcolm), Madison Riley (Jasmine Hilliard)
Watching Grown Ups is much like watching someone’s terrible home movies: It is obvious that the people on screen had a grand ol’ time and enjoyed themselves immensely while the camera was rolling, but that sense of fun not only fails to translate into a pleasurable viewing experience for everyone else, but actually has the opposite effect of being alternately boring and irritating. There is no doubt that the movie’s quintet of familiar forty-something comic stars of varying wattage--Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider--had a good time shooting the movie, as it appears that they did little more than rent a lake house, go to a water park, and improvise a lot of semi-clever insults to hurl at each other. But, what they and director Dennis Dugan (in his fifth collaboration with Sandler) seemed to forget is that the good times of their Saturday Night Live reunion are not necessarily ours, and I would imagine that even the most die-hard of Happy Madison followers will have a hard time managing more than a few chuckles while slogging through this sloppy ode to middle-age male-dom.
The screenplay by Sandler and former SNL scribe Peter Wolf (who has also penned several David Spade vehicles, including Joe Dirt and Dickie Roberts) is centered around five best childhood friends who are reunited after years apart when their beloved junior high basketball coach passes away. We have no idea how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other, but it doesn’t really matter since their primary mode of communication is still “razzing” each other about anything and everything. Granted, this does allow for a few gems of clever verbal undercutting, but after a while it grows tiresome and also makes the de facto scene of “soul baring” at the end feel that much more shamefully contrived.
Each character comes from a distinctly different place in life, which makes you wonder how they were ever friends as kids (they seem to have literally nothing in common). Sandler’s Lenny Feder is a successful Hollywood super-agent with a beautiful, but shallow fashion designer wife (Salma Hayek) who can’t wait to get to Milan and a pair of obnoxious, snobbish boys who demand bottled water, violent video games, and Godiva hot chocolate from their overworked nanny. This is, of course, a source of embarrassment for Lenny, but it’s hard to feel for him since he’s the Beverly Hills Frankenstein who created these monsters, and their redemption via skipping rocks on the lake and talking through cup phones instead of cell phones feels as phony as everything else in the movie. Then we have Kevin James’ Eric Lamonsoff, a hefty blue-collar type who’s obviously trying to live above his means, while Chris Rock’s Kurt McKenzie is trying to live down his status as a house-husband at the beck and call of his pregnant bread-winner wife (Maya Rudolph). The group is rounded out with David Spade’s single lothario Marcus Higgins (a role he could play in his sleep) and Rob Schneider’s Elvis-coiffed Rob Hilliard, a touchy-feely natural medicine guru who has a thing for older women and is the closest thing the movie comes to any kind of demented inspiration.
While the title of Grown Ups would seem to suggest that it is somehow about the difficulties of growing up and accepting adult responsibility, there is so little emphasis on any thematic undertones that it literally could have been called anything. The movie’s overall laziness is best encapsulated in its lame running jokes that aren’t funny the first time around, its myriad reaction shots (what else are all the other actors to do?), and its refusal to be about anything other than its stars’ improvised dialogue and self-serving laughter (the inevitable DVD supplements will undoubtedly have a robust section of alternate takes). Even the Steve Buscemi cameo feels old and tired, and he is usually the saving grace of Adam Sandler movies. The worn-out underlying gag is that all these supposed adults are still 12-year-old kids at heart, which gives Sandler and company license to engage in all forms of repetitive juvenile behavior that would be monotonous if it weren’t so pathetic in its casual cruelty (they seem to have a particular affinity for ripping on women above a certain age while oogling young women in bikinis). It is particularly ironic--and telling--that Grown Ups was released the weekend after Pixar’s Toy Story 3, a computer-animated children’s movie that offers genuine, emotionally stirring insight into the pains and joys of casting off childhood while also being much, much funnier.
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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