Adam Sandler’s mindless new movie, Grown Ups, is a cheap, brief escape from the summer heat. Lacking plot or cinematic grandeur, the film traces the reunion of five best friends. Adam Sandler leads the pack that also includes: Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James. Mourning the death of their beloved basketball mentor, Coach Buzzer, the friends and their families spend the Fourth of July weekend in the woods to commemorate their late coach.
“When that final buzzer of life goes by, you should have no regrets,” the wise coach says in a scene flashing back to the boys’ childhood. Do not be fooled by the shrewd words; they are the only meaningful lines throughout Grown Ups. The dialogue consists of a smattering of jokes, some funny, but most not. Raunchy, juvenile humor pads the script. Half of the jokes are lost in mumbles, and the other half reverberates off of comedic moments that come in rapid succession.
The friends, now grown up and with families of their own, enjoy poking fun at one another in every possible way. Their bodies, their children, their cars, nothing is off limits for them. When is Adam Sandler going to “grow up?” Though the characters in Grown Ups are overdrawn and overly caricatured, a true friendship and camaraderie connects them. They are united by the memory of their beloved deceased coach and the years they spent playing basketball as the only reigning championship team from their school.
Lenny Feder, played by Adam Sandler, who also co-wrote Grown Ups with Fred Wolf, is the star of the show, a hot-shot agent who is called “Hollywood” by his enemies. Married to the cold, career-oriented Roxanne, played by Salma Hayek, Lenny laments his children’s fascination with technology, flat screen televisions, and brand- name bottled water. A not so subtle message in the movie, Grown Ups, is to embrace nature and to remember the great outdoors, rather than to turn into a couch potato and blackberry-toting glamazon.
The most entertaining characters in Grown Ups were Lenny’s two young sons because of how overly-exaggerated and obnoxious they were. “Get me a Fiji water,” one of them demands at a low-end restaurant in the middle of the woods. “I only packed for Italy,” the other cries when their father asks why they are wearing designer clothing on an outdoor vacation. As Lenny’s child picks up a rock at the edge of the water, Sandler speaks to himself, encouraging his son to skip the rock. The rock falls to the ground with a thud.
Roxanne (Salma Hayek) adds to her children’s spoiled nature. She rudely breaks the news of the tooth fairy’s non-existence to her sweet young daughter, the only one in the film, Grown Ups, who seems to believe in anything. Roxanne hurls orders at the nanny, who Lenny (Adam Sandler) insists on calling an exchange student so his friends won’t make fun of him. If Salma Hayek cannot sparkle in a film, that is not a good sign. None of the roles in Grown Ups required any attempt at acting. Grown Ups seemed more like a fun chance for Sandler to whip up a few jokes while his movie star friends half-heartedly deliver the lines.
Lenny’s friend Eric, played by Kevin James, is the “average Joe” of the bunch with a wife who awkwardly takes pleasure in breastfeeding her son who is much too old to drink his mother’s milk. The son begs his mother to let him drink Roxanne’s (Salma Hayek’s) breast milk, and shouts that he wants to “get wasted.” The only single friend of the crew, Marcus Higgins (played by David Spade), throws the phrase around the table, inspiring the kids to yell, “I want to get chocolate wasted!” This is the type of joke that runs throughout Grown Ups: crude, yet appropriate for a certain audience who delights in lowbrow humor.
It was distracting to keep up with each of the five friends. Chris Rock, perhaps the only funny one of the bunch, plays Kurt McKenzie, a disgruntled stay-at-home dad who complains that his wife, Deanne (played by SNL’s Maya Rudolph), does not shower him or the kids with enough time and affection. Proud of his Rachael Ray- inspired meal, Kurt throws a fit when his wife dismisses his efforts by opting for a box of pizza instead.
The exaggerated lines and Kurt’s common complaints made me roll my eyes, though the role reversal did add some comedic element to Grown Ups. I did like Kurt’s excited proclamation, “this is my kitchen!” when he walked into the cabin. Deanne’s mother, played by Ebony Jo-Ann, shares with everyone her enormous, disgusting bunion, prompting many jokes not only about her bunion, but also about her flatulence problem.
Rob Schneider plays the spiritual drama queen, Rob Hilliard. Married to Gloria, (Joyce Van Patten), Rob enjoys that his wife is as old as his grandmother. Gloria and Rob brag openly about their sex life. They lick each other’s tongues in greeting, successfully inspiring far too many jokes throughout the film.
While staying at a cabin in the woods where the friends spent summers as boys, Rob (played by Rob Schneider) suddenly finds inspiration to contact his daughters from his previous marriages. His daughters surprise everyone with their sex-appeal, parading around in bikinis and hot pants. As Lenny (Sandler) stares at one of Rob’s daughters as she attempts to fix her car in mini-shorts, the crew decides to intersperse looking at her with looking out into the distance. Gloria (Rob’s grandmother/wife) then takes the wrench, wind blowing in her hair. Sandler and friends quickly turn the other way.
Funny? Maybe you will find it so. I, however, did not want to spend ten minutes watching Adam Sandler stare at a skinny young girl’s barely there shorts. I also did not need to watch him play pranks on his intoxicated friend Marcus by throwing him into a closet. Nor did I need to watch Sandler and crew attempt to fry bacon on a machine meant to zap mosquitoes.
Last but not least, Marcus (David Spade) completes the crew as the only un-married friend. He loves alcohol and also loves to stir up trouble by hitting on Rob’s pretty daughters. In an oh-so-tender moment after Rob accuses Marcus of sleeping with his daughter, Marcus confesses his admiration for his friends, claiming he would never sleep with his friend’s daughter.
Marcus’s confessions prompt all of the characters to have some sort of epiphany. Roxanne delays her trip to Italy for fashion week, choosing instead to skip some stones into the river and to encourage a trip to a water park; bold contribution. Eric admits he recently lost his job and also decides it is time to stop his son from drinking his wife’s breast milk. The kids survive without cell phones, turning tin cans and string into walkie-talkies, and even begin to enjoy walks in the woods.
Cheesy? Yes. Enjoyable? Maybe. Grown Ups is not meant to be realistic, stimulating, or inspiring. There are no visually interesting scenes.
Though the disjointed jokes in Grown Ups did not serve to hold the movie together, the reminder to get out of the house, into the woods, and to spend time with people you care about is always needed. As Gloria (Schneider’s wife) succinctly states, “The first act is always exciting. The second act; that is where the depth comes in.” Sadly, Grown Ups misses both excitement and depth.
Rated PG-13. Theatrical release 6/25/2010.
PR.com Rating: C