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Just because you grow older doesn’t mean you have to grow up! Comedy superstars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider are at their hilarious and outrageous best playing childhood friends who reunite one holiday weekend to relive the good old days. It doesn’t matter that these five guys are now respectable businessmen, husbands and fathers. Once they get back together, nothing is going to stop these kids-at-heart from having the time of their adult lives. From the people who brought you Click, comes this hilarious and heartwarming film that proves men will be boys.
Commentary with Director Dennis Dugan
Behind The Back Basket
Dennis Dugan: Hands on Director
The Lost Tapes of Norm MacDonald
The Cast of Grown Ups
Busey and the Monkey
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The premise centers on five friends, who as kids back in 1978 were part of their school's Basketball team. Thirty years later, we find each of them living completely different lives. Lenny Feder (Sandler) is a successful Hollywood agent. Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James) claims he's the head of a lawn furniture company. Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock) is a stay-at-home dad. Rob Hilliard (Rob Schneider) is a holistic typecast who seemingly always preferred older women. The only one of the group to have escaped marriage and family is Marcus Higgins (David Spade), an overage sexaholic party animal. Upon the death of the coach who led them to victory, they return to their New England hometown with their families and spend the Fourth of July holiday at a lakeside summer house; here, the five friends will reminisce, fight, rediscover, reveal, and, according to the film's title, grow.
For Lenny, it's a personal mission to get his family to see what real life is like. His wife, Roxanne (Salma Hayek Pinault), is a workaholic fashion designer with an impending show in Milan. His two adolescent sons are spoiled, addicted to texting and violent video games, always waited on hand and foot, preferring imported bottled water, accustomed to five-star accommodations at hotels, and apparently unaware that television sets existed before the days of flat screens. They bring along their nanny, a tiresome Asian stereotype (Di Quon), although Lenny desperately tries to convince his friends that she a foreign exchange student and not hired help. Something could have been made of this had it not been overshadowed by shallow, obvious humor; his kids are ridiculous Hollywood caricatures with no traces of believability, and his wife is stylistically out of place, not at all helped by the fact that Salma Hayek was wrong for the role.
Other bizarre personalities emerge. Eric's wife, Sally (Maria Bello), still breastfeeds their four-year-old son, and as it so happens, the kid constantly craves milk. Kurt's pregnant wife, Deanne (Maya Rudolph), always takes him for granted and can never say anything nice about his cooking; the same goes for her mother (Ebony Jo-Ann), who's always butting in and has terrible bunions. Rob's wife, Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), is in her mid seventies, while his three daughters - two of them smoking hot bimbos, one a dorky misfit - spend as much time as they can being the source of many appearance-related jokes. Rob is the film's worst character, fleshed out solely by exaggerated holistic traits and general social and physical oddness; one wonders how he could ever be friends with the other four, or rather, how they could ever be friends with him.
The film's climax involves a Basketball rematch between the five friends and their former rivals, led by Colin Quinn, who always believed the game from thirty years ago was unfairly won. While there is a moral to this scene, it doesn't resonate, and that's because it's masked by the film's immature tone. It's also delivered far too late in the story, at which point we no longer care about the characters or their circumstances. I'm well aware that humor can often times be found in very serious situations, but that's not what's going on here; it's a sophomoric and silly buddy film through and through. The more reserved and mature themes near the end seem like afterthoughts, as if Sandler and Wolf decided at the last minute to decided to tack them on. That way, their screenplay could actually be about something.
To me, this isn't a question of whether or not you're an Adam Sandler fan. I say this because every review I've read seems to think this somehow matters: "If you're an Adam Sandler fan, you're going to like this movie." How about if you're a fan of comedy? I think that's the real criteria, here. I very much consider myself a fan. The thing is, even comedies should have standards, and in the case of "Grown Ups," they're in short supply. It has no ambition other than to be goofy and gross. It generates laughs not by respecting the intelligence of the audience, but simply by appealing to the lowest common denominator. On a more positive note, I will give David Spade credit for being the only actor I know of to successfully say "grody," a word that hasn't been popular for quite some time.
Five best friends in the late 70s, a championship basketball team, coached by a man who had a profound influence on their lives, reunite some thirty years later when coach dies. The young boys are now family men (Sandler, Rock, Spade, Schneider, James) - some successful, some not, others typecast misfits - who must return to their triumphant boyhood memories to reminisce, reflect, bust each others' balls, and generally enjoy themselves in spite of the somber occasion. Sounds fun, right!? The problem: they bring their families, full of associated oddities and difficulties. This is a problem because Sandler and co-writer Ron Wolf got stuck in between target audiences. For every chuckle-worthy crack delivered between old friends (i.e. adult humor) there are two completely unfunny moments that spoiled quicker than breast-milk.
The casting in and of itself is stupendous, and I see their demographically influenced intentions, but the results are subtraction by addition. Reuniting old SNL cast-members and various comic friends, with James providing a poor man's Farley, is obviously for young adults. Adding in Selma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph was a great way to keep the adult male audience entertained (not to mention the addition of two gorgeous, bikini-clad women, Jamie Chung and Madison Riley). A wise cracking Big Momma rip-off was added alongside a really lame comedy skit (with Tim Meadows) from Rock's 1999 routine explicitly for the Tyler Perry audience. A woman in her mid-70s was added (as Schneider's wife, ugh) to bring in the Metamucil crowd. Sprinkle in a several kids, some of them completely loathsome, and the result is movie meatloaf.
Unfortunately, the screenplay is not much better. Far too often there is a reliance on retread jokes and situations, which accentuates the movie's recycled feeling. Flawed and disjointed, it's once again target audience ambivalence. Either the kids deliver the one-liners to elicit the "awwws," or the adults deliver for "guffaws." You can't have it both ways. When the gags are humorous, however, it's best not to use them until glue oozes from the horse. Clearly Sandler has never heard the phrase "less is more."
Overall, the direction and result of "Grown Ups" is one that never fulfills the promise of the title. Instead, growth is stunted; stuck in the voice-cracking, awkward pubescent years, the ensemble relies upon sounds and fluids from various bodily orifices to fill plot gaps during their movie version of a roast, while futile attempts at sentimentality and misplaced life-lessons muddy the waters. It's clear making the movie was a blast, but watching it pales in comparison. The movie, much like Sandler, is stuck in perpetual puberty.