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By Nick Pinkerton Youve probably seen the poster for Grown Ups, with its starsAdam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin Jamesbarreling down a waterslide. Or is the verb Im looking for coasting?
Grown Ups begins with a flashback to a 1978 boys basketball championship, where the starting five look like 12-year-old versions of the aforementioned lineup. Introducing the cast as recognizable adolescent versions of the adult characters theyll grow into is a move familiar from the mid-90s Saturday Night Livemovie template, a la Chris Farley and Spade at the beginning of Tommy Boyand Grown Ups is a Class of 1990 reunion for SNLs 16th season, where now-fortysomething stars Sandler, Rock, Spade, and Schneider all debuted (Kevin James fields fat jokes for the late Farley). True to its lineage, Grown Ups even ends with a climactic contestIm surprised they dont save somebodys family business along the way.
Grown Ups catches up with the teammates 30 years later, reunited for Coachs funeral in their New England hometown (helpfully identified onscreen as New England). Star shooter Sandler is a Hollywood agent, married to successful fashion designer Salma Hayek and exasperated by two spoiled sons who live inside nihilistic video games (echoing Clicks Luddite message, and humorously visualized). Rock is a stay-at-home dad with a third kid on the way from Maya Rudolph; Jamess 48-month-old is still breastfeeding from mom Maria Bello, to the delight of David Spade, importing his still-single horndog shtick, while Schneider is the New-Age-sensitive-guy who the gang single out for razzing because of his granola-granny wife, his veganism, and his use of poultices.
Entrusted with Coachs ashes, the boys and their families head for their old summer-getaway lodge, where they sit in Adirondack chairs by a perpetually gold-shimmering lake. The guest list includes the urn, Rocks stock-comic mother-in-law, a dog with snipped vocal cords (its gurgling bark one of many if-at-first-you-dont-succeed running jokes), five men, four wives, and 10 kids. This small army becomes a gridlock of gags and plotlines, with conflicts and assigned traits dropped and hastily retrieved as needed. Rudolph is the only capable comedienne among the wives; the men are either unfunny or, if given fewer lines, useless. Though the uncynical goodwill that accompanies Sandlers work makes footing this vacation bill less enraging than the toxic Couples Retreat, its one of those Sandler movies where the inevitable Steve Buscemi cameo passes for the highlight.
Happy Madison Productions house director Dennis Dugans comic timing here is a snap-snap-lets-go rush to the next outrageous moment: potentially fatal pratfalls, repeated public urination, crotch hits, gushers of breast milk, Grandmamas infected big toe, Coachs ashes blown over a prominently displayed bucket of KFC Grilled Chicken. (In a piece of admirable restraint, only Spade displays his bare ass.) While Sandler has never trafficked in epigrammatic wit, theres a difference between, say, Billy Madisons Of course I peed my pantseveryone my age pees their pants or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larrys shakedown of hetero squeamishness, and this lazy stuffthe difference between smart-dumb and plain-dumb.
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