Lazy Grown Ups Still Good for a Few Laughs
- Friday, June 25, 2010
DVD Release Date: November 9, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: June 25, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity)
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Dennis Dugan
Actors: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Colin Quinn, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows
The new Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups is the movie equivalent of a skit that airs between 12:30 and 1 a.m. on Saturday Night Live. A lot of it falls flat, but if you're in a forgiving mood, you might find yourself chuckling despite your better judgment.
The comparison is apt because Grown Ups stars several comedians from the SNL cast during the 1990s. Many of the performers have worked together before, and anyone who's watched full episodes of SNL rather than the condensed highlights knows how often the comedians struggle to make subpar sketch writing engaging. In Grown Ups, they do that for 102 minutes, and from time to time their efforts pay off.
Sure, you could pretend the film never made you smile. After all, it has a warmed-over quality that, even by the standards of mushy Adam Sandler comedies (we're talking about a guy who once made Click), feels lazily written and/or improvised by the principal characters. Nevertheless, the performers' familiarity with each other from their years of working together shows. They don't go back as far as their characters do—to their childhoods—but they really are old friends. They understand comic timing, even when the material they're delivering is beneath their comedic capabilities, and they wring it for all it's worth—which isn't much. Yet coming on the heels of a spate of Judd Apatow-produced raunchy comedies (Funny People, Year One), Grown Ups feels like a bit of a throwback. It's bawdy at times—if you go, don't take the kids—but it's not an out-and-out raunchfest.
The film, cowritten by Sandler and Fred Wolf (he wrote the forgettable Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Joe Dirt, both starring David Spade), focuses on Lenny (Sandler), Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider). They bonded as 12-year-old basketball champions under the guidance of their coach. He guides them both on the court and off it, using the game-ending buzzer as a catchall metaphor for life lessons. "You don't want to have any regrets at the final buzzer of life," he tells the team. Years later, when coach hears the final buzzer, the former teammates gather for his funeral and spend a weekend getting reacquainted.
Lenny is married to an elite fashion designer (Salma Hayek) who'd rather be at a show in Milan than watching Lenny bond with his old pals during an extended stay in the sticks. Eric is married to a woman (Maria Bello) who still breast-feeds their four-year-old, Rob is on his fourth marriage, this time to a woman who's old enough to be his mother. Kurt does the cooking and keeps house for his wife (Maya Rudolph) while enduring the cutting comments of his mother-in-law. Marcus remains single, goading the other guys into various games of one-upmanship.
Through their few days together, the men will reconnect and somehow strengthen their marriages, even as they joke about their sundry marital problems. A bout with a team of old rivals (including Steve Buscemi and SNL alums Tim Meadows and Colin Quinn) is perfunctory but, for better or worse, gives those actors a chance to ham it up. Your willingness to endure their one-dimensional performances will depend on the goodwill you bring to the actors based on their earlier comedic work.
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