Grown Ups is just the sort of juvenile humor we’ve come to expect from an Adam Sandler movie that, despite the title, lacks the growth you might assume from middle-aged men or the laughs you might expect from comedy veterans.
Sandler, now 43 and a father of two, used to be a reliable source of lowbrow yet funny gags during the ’90s. But that time left with age and god-awful flicks like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, both directed by frequent collaborator/offender Dennis Dugan.
Produced under Sandler’s Happy Madison banner, this latest lazy effort assembles his old crew of “Saturday Night Live” buddies for a reunion of sorts. In fact, they seem to be having a great time together on screen, riffing and exchanging insults. Unfortunately, someone forgot to share the good times with the audience members, who are left suffering through recycled jokes about Kevin James’ weight. He’s fat! Get it?
As the most plotless of Sandler’s writing credits, it’s a wonder they bothered to even draw up an excuse for bringing the band back together. An opening flashback establishes the characters as children, playing and winning the championship game in little league basketball for their beloved Coach “Buzzer” Bernadino (Blake Clark). Thirty years later they reunite for his funeral and a family getaway.
Sandler plays Lenny, a Hollywood agent, who is married to a beautiful fashion designer (Salma Hayek) with which he has three spoiled children, but ashamed of his success in front of his friends. This means he — oh boy, I can barely contain my laughter — pretends the nanny is a foreign exchange student. Hilarity!
James is cleverly the opposite as a failure faking wealth, a character trait that quickly becomes irrelevant once he resorts to the usual Paul Blart pratfalls, and those only make me miss Chris Farley. His wife, played by Maria Bello, is still breastfeeding their four-year-old, yet another tired gag mined for easy jokes.
Chris Rock is a househusband whipped by a pregnant Maya Rudolph, who wears the pants in that relationship, and his mother (Ebony Jo-Ann) tags along to provide the much-needed fart humor quotient.
David Spade is as sarcastic as this review, but seems to do most of the funny ad libbing of the group when he’s not relegated to womanizer cliches.
Finally, Rob Schneider is allowed to say more than “you can do it!” as a new age vegan into (much) older women. In fact, he scores one of the movie’s funniest moments with a rousing rendition of Ave Maria before blending into the background where he belongs.
A “villain” turn by Colin Quinn and cameos by Steve Buscemi, Norm MacDonald, Tim Meadows and, randomly, sportcaster Dan Patrick add nothing past the recognition factor.
Thus, the five guys just sit around and goof on one another’s single defining characteristic. What’s worse is the jokes are repetitive; each funnyman takes their shot, strikes out, and then resurrects the dead horse to bloody it again with more obvious humor. It’s like hanging out with your pals, only I guarantee you and your crew have better material.
For a movie that would have been the talk of the town ten to fifteen years ago, Grown Ups is responsible for very few chuckles and far too many eye rolls for its once comedic ensemble.
1.5 out of 5.