Title: Grown Ups
Director: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph
A film starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider has to be funny, right? Not only is that what the promotional material for Grown Ups wants moviegoers to think, but it also seems to have been what was on the minds of the members of this comedic powerhouse. Sit back, relax, do what you’re told and hilarity magically ensues. Maybe in a dream, but this is reality and Grown Ups faces a harsh one.
Back in the 70’s coach Buzzer led Lenny, Eric, Kurt, Marcus and Rob to a basketball championship. Thirty years later, the boys have grown up and apart, but their coach’s passing brings them back together again not only to remember good old coach Buzzer, but to spend a weekend together at the same lake house at which they celebrated their big win back in the day. Joining them on the excursion are their wives and children.
Lenny (Sandler) is a hotshot Hollywood agent married to a fashion designer (Salma Hayek). They’ve got three kids, two tech-addicted boys and a little girl with a soft spot for injured animals. Eric (James) is married with two children, a girl prone to temper tantrums and a 48-month old boy who likes to indulge in mommy milk. Kurt (Rock) grew up to be the woman of the house, cleaning, cooking and looking after the kids while his pregnant wife (Maya Rudolph) takes care of business. Marcus (Spade) may have grown up physically, but he’s still a bachelor with a college frat boy attitude while Rob (Schneider) took his childhood attraction to older woman to the max and married a grandma who shares his appreciation for all things natural and wholesome.
And that’s pretty much it. The plot is reduced to the whole coach-is-dead-let’s-reunite thing and from there, pretty much just throws the guys and the family members together and lets them go about their not so amusing business. Had the gags been funny, they could only carry the film so far. At some point there needs to be some sort of story to latch on to, some sort of ending to be working towards, but neither ever comes. The gags go from goofing with the kids, to having a guy-only powwow, to talking about bunions and back again. It gets old, fast.
Making matters worse, the jokes are painfully unfunny, so much so they’re embarrassing to watch if not nauseating. Even worse? Nearly every gag is used and abused, over and over. A tyke still drinking mom’s breast milk, Kurt’s mother-in-law’s relentless farting, Rob’s unnaturally gorgeous daughters and a dog with an unusual bark is a guarantee at least every ten minutes. What’s in between? Countless mean-spirited jabs at one another. The only way these friends know how to be funny is by going for the other’s gut and in a film with zero heart, those jokes become more unappealing than the grotesque ones.
Grown Ups is just one giant waste; a waste of a fantastic cast, a waste of a promising premise and a waste of something that could have been the comedy of the summer. Dennis Dugan’s directing is painfully dull, but most of the blame falls on co-writers Sandler and Fred Wolf. It feels as though Sandler woke up one morning thinking he’s in the top tier of comedy actors, producers and writers, so why not use the power to amass a crack team of Hollywood’s best and make some easy money? Regardless of what the film pulls in at the box office, Grown Ups certainly seems like it was an easy project. Perhaps if Sandler and Wolf would have given even a single joke a second thought, they might have realized that something was very wrong with this script, something so wrong that even all of the world’s best comedians couldn’t fix it.
By Perri Nemiroff