Grown Ups

Cast:
Adam Sandler as Lenny Feder
Kevin James as Eric Lamonsoff
Chris Rock as Kurt McKenzie
David Spade as Marcus Higgins
Rob Schneider as Rob Hilliard
Salma Hayek Pinault as Roxanne Chase-Feder
Maria Bello as Sally Lamonsoff
Maya Rudolph as Deanne McKenzie
Joyce Van Patten as Gloria
Ebony Jo-Ann as Mama Ronzoni
Di Quon as Rita
Steve Buscemi as Wiley
Colin Quinn as Dickie Bailey
Tim Meadows as Malcolm
Madison Riley as Jasmine Hilliard
Jamie Chung as Amber Hilliard
Ashley Loren as Bridget Hilliard
Jake Goldberg as Greg Feder
Cameron Boyce as Keithie Feder
Alexys Nycole Sanchez as Becky Feder
Ada-nicole Sanger as Donna Lamonsoff
Frank Gingerich as Bean Lamonsoff
Morgan Gingerich as Bean Lamonsoff
Nadji Jeter as Andre McKenzie
China Anne McClain as Charlotte McKenzie

Directed by Dennis Dugan

Story:
Five good friends (Sandler, James, Rock, Spade and Schneider) who won a basketball championship as kids reconvene to commemorate the death of their coach thirty years later by spending 4th of July weekend at the lake house where they celebrated the win. Having all lived different lives, they show up with their wives and kids to try to reconnect with nature and each other.

Analysis:
A summer vacation comedy featuring Adam Sandler and four of his closest comic friends sounds both promising and daunting at the same time, maybe because the last time we’ve seen something close to “Grown Ups” was when Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau made “Couples Retreat” and we all remember how that turned out. Though I’ll freely admit each of the stars of this movie have made me laugh at one point or another in the past or at least been in a movie I’ve enjoyed as a guilty pleasure–okay, maybe not Rob Schneider–it’s hard to have high hopes when close friends are allowed to make movies together without a strong director’s vision to keep them on track.

After a funny title sequence featuring kids made-up to look just like younger versions of Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider playing the final minutes of their championship, we cut to decades later when four of the guys are married, three of them have kids, yet Spade’s Marcus is still living like he’s in college, sleeping with a different woman every night. Apparently, Sandler’s Lenny has had the most success as a Hollywood agent and is married to a sexy fashion designer wife (Salma Hayek) whose kids take the little things for granted because they’re so spoiled. By comparison James’ Eric and Rock’s Kurt have trouble gaining the respect of their wife and kids, while Rob Schneider’s Rob is living a holistic New Age lifestyle with his significantly older wife Gloria. Their reunion at the lake house isn’t just their chance to catch up and reflect but also to gain the respect of their families through group activities.

That’s essentially the set-up and the entire gist of the flimsy “plot” where a ridiculously cumbersome ensemble cast leaves little room for any of them to really stand out, except Sandler of course. He pretty much insures that he’s never the butt of jokes or made to look bad while putting all of his friends through hell. Kevin James is basically one fat joke or pratfall after another, while Spade’s womanizing tendencies tires quickly. There’s not really much to say about Rob Schneider and his ridiculous pompadour wig except that his attempts to be dramatic and emotional as the movie opens falter, so he gives it up to do the more moronic humor he’s better known for. Chris Rock gets the short end of the stick, playing the character with the least personality and laughs; his character could have been played by anyone. If Rock hadn’t recently appeared in the much stronger ensemble comedy “Death at a Funeral,” there wouldn’t be as much to complain about.

Regardless of your feelings towards Sandler and his crew, it’s hard not to feel they’re just hacking it out at this point, Sandler’s normal fratboy humor being mixed with pratfalls, sub-Farrellys gross out and a string of put-downs, as the guys crack jokes at each other’s expense then laugh as if they’ve said the funniest thing ever. With a minimal story, it really just feels like they’re making it up as they go along, they come up with a couple ideas for scenes then cross their fingers that between the five of them, they can come up with enough jokes to make them work. One example is a bit where they play “arrow roulette” where one of them shoots an arrow in the air and they run in all directions, tripping over logs, hitting heads etc. So while there may be a lot of laughs, it’s mainly amongst themselves.

The women aren’t given much to do, Salma Hayek being miscast to bring much to the comedy and the chronically-pregnant Maya Rudolph not doing much better with an obnoxious woman whose only purpose is to play “gotcha” pranks. Who knows how they convinced Maria Bello to essentially be a running breast-feeding gag? It wears thin faster than any of the other overused gags. For the most part, women are objectified for the benefit of the guys, most evident when Rob’s daughters from previous marriages show up, all of them smokin’ hot and scantily-clad, leading to one of the few clever moments when the other four guys try not to look as the tall blonde Jasmine wearing tight shorts works on her car. Yeah, it’s fairly sophomoric and the type of fodder for adolescent boys and pea brains that you’ll probably feel more than a little guilty when you laugh at the joke.

When the action moves to a water park, you can pretty much figure out where things are going, but it essentially continues the same ongoing jokes as earlier, combining them with gags involving the various rides. Where the movie falters the worst is when it tries to get sentimental or nostalgic, but fortunately, it doesn’t spend too much time trying to do something it’s no good at.

Eventually, it gets to the point where the five guys are coerced into rematch against the team they beat for the championship decades earlier–stolen straight from a classic episode of “Seinfeld,” mind you–and we finally get some sort of closure on the opening scene. By that point, you’ve sat through so much garbage, there’s very little any sort of feel-good ending can do to save it.

The Bottom Line:
While not the worst movie any of this cast have done, it’s far from their best work either, the results being a semi-funny “This is Your Life, Adam Sandler” where the sum of the parts rarely achieves anything as funny as Sandler might have done on his own. Some may counter that a summer vacation comedy like this can be excused for lazy writing and for filmmaking by committee, but it’s obvious Sandler and the gang are surviving on fumes ending up with a movie that’s too much of a muddled mess to be fully enjoyed.

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