Movie Review: Grown Ups
By Matthew Huntley
July 5, 2010
To know and be friends with Adam Sandler must be every actor-comedian’s pipe dream. Not only has Sandler established his own brand of comedy, but his movies gross millions and he always has a part for his closest buddies. In Hollywood, to know Adam Sandler, or to have worked with him on Saturday Night Live, is to have job security.
Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade all know this, and even though each man can survive on his own, Sandler helps keep them in the spotlight. That’s sweet of Sandler, I guess, but it’s not always pleasing to the audience. It seems whenever Sandler works with these guys, the same old formula kicks in and it’s hard to surprise us or make us laugh. Grown Ups is further proof Sandler should simply retire from these low-brow comedies, not least because we know he’s above them (see Spanglish or Funny People). It’s not completely devoid of funny moments, but there aren’t enough to go around.
The movie follows five childhood friends (all of whom I mentioned above, including Sandler) who reunite after 30 years when their beloved basketball coach dies. With the exception of the David Spade character, each man has a wife and kids and they all decide to spend the weekend together at the lake house where they grew up. For 90 minutes, we watch these middle-aged men try to do young activities and hopefully teach their families about outdoor appreciation, friendship and taking time to smell the roses. Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and Joyce Van Patten play the wives. Joyce Van Patten you say? One of the movie’s running jokes is that the Schneider character prefers older women.
Okay, so this is not an evil comedy, and there are some funny moments worth mentioning. I liked, for instance, that Sandler’s kids in the movie are too lazy and spoiled to get up and ask their nanny for a cup of hot chocolate; they would rather text her instead. Sadly, I don’t think it's that exaggerated of behavior, but at least the movie views it as a flaw. Later on, there’s some amusing slapstick when the guys play arrow roulette and lose the arrow in the sun. I also liked Sandler’s new use for a dehydrated banana.
Such moments were relatively fresh and original, but they don’t occupy enough screen time. The other 75 minutes is comprised of the same old juvenile humor we’ve come to expect from these types of comedies. It’s not funny to watch an overweight Kevin James break his above ground pool (we see it coming a mile away); it’s not funny to see Rob Schneider make out with an older woman or to listen to dialogue about their unorthodox sex life; it’s not funny to see the five stars pee in a wading pool; and it’s not funny to see a four-year-old boy breast feed. These jokes are pounded into us over and over again because the screenplay by Sandler and Fred Wolf is limited and runs out of ideas quickly. Adolescent boys may find it amusing, but why can’t the movie at least try to be funny without resorting to humor surrounding bodily fluids?
I will say the movie has its heart in the right place and it sends a positive, albeit contrived, message. At least it’s dumb without being mean-spirited.
Adam Sandler has been at the top for a while now, so why can’t he harness his energy toward a comedy that’s more, well, grown up? Deep down, I believe Sandler knows what’s funny, but he of all people should know we’ve seen this kind of movie time and again and the jokes have run their course. I don’t mind if he keeps his same friends, but how about acquiring some new material?