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There is precious little to admire in this light-on-laughs summer comedy about a group of childhood friends undergoing a collective mid-life crisis. But you've got to hand it to co-writer-producer-star Adam Sandler. He's loyal to a fault.
Sandler's fidelity manifests itself in employing some past-their-prime Saturday Night Live cohorts in a project that attempts to reveal the wacky workings of mid-life males.
Sandler's best comic efforts in the past few years have tended to be in over-the-top fare such as You Don't Mess With the Zohan, in which he played a Mossad superspy-turned-hairdresser. Executing a harebrained hairpin turn, Sandler and Zohan director Dennis Dugan here actually attempt to get the audience to chuckle with recognition at the fragile foibles of fortysomething masculinity.
In attempting to touch base with the common shmuck, the film actually demonstrates just how wide the chasm is between Hollywood actors and... everybody else.
After a flashback depicting the unlikely league victory of a junior basketball team, we find the team's now-adult star player Lenny Feder (Sandler) is a wealthy Hollywood agent living in Beverly Hills with a gorgeous fashion-designer wife (Salma Hayak). Their kids are so spoiled, they text their live-in nanny (Di Quon) to deliver bottled water while playing ultra-violent video games.
When Lenny gets the news that his old basketball coach has died back east, the stage is set for a reunion with his boyhood friends, each of whom comes with their own anxieties:
-- Eric (Kevin James) is trying to project a brave front while enduring professional problems and a wife (Maria Bello) who still breastfeeds their four-year-old son.
-- Kurt (Chris Rock) is a house husband whose masculinity is undermined by his dominant and very pregnant wife (Maya Rudolph).
-- Marcus (David Spade) has resisted any semblance of settling down and is facing the possibility of a lonely drunken future.
-- The much-married Rob (Rob Schneider) has maintained his penchant for marrying older women, now trying to make a go of his relationship with the elderly Gloria (Joyce Van Patten) while trying to re-establish relations with the miscellaneous, eerily gorgeous daughters he fathered elsewhere.
Apparently, Sandler, co-scriptwriter Fred Wolf and Dugan believed that if you stuck a group of funny guys in a cabin, the laughs would simply spill forth like spring water.
No one bothered to prime the comedy pump with a decent script. With the exception of one or two scenes, there is barely a legitimate laugh in the whole movie.
That might be acceptable if the movie had even a sliver of emotional truth. Instead, it resorts to pure shtick, including wringing more Zohan-esque laughs from the sexual pairing of an older woman and a younger man. (Given that Joyce Van Patten was once married to 12-years-younger director Dugan, one has to wonder how much the actress appreciated this role.)
In one especially horrifying comedy bit, the wives primp at a water park in front of a ripped male specimen, only to collapse into laughter when he talks like a Great White North über-hoser claiming to be from "Saskatchatoon."
An unfunny American movie making fun of Canadians?
Allow me to suggest that a few more Canadians on either side of the camera might have made this movie much less dismal than it is.
Selected excerpts from reviews of Grown Ups.
Grown Ups is juvenile comedy in search of a consistent tone, which it never finds.
-- Paul Byrnes, Sydney Morning Herald
These guys set out to make a movie where they could crack each other up. At this late date, they can't even manage that.
-- Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
Adam Sandler spends more time laughing at jokes than making them in Grown Ups, perhaps the slackest, shabbiest comedy in the star's increasingly dreadful oeuvre.
-- Nick Schager, Slant magazine
It's one of those Sandler movies where the inevitable Steve Buscemi cameo passes for the highlight.
-- Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice
What's alarming is that there is an entire generation that considers these guys the comedy touchstones of their era. This is why Generation X is doomed.
-- Marshall Fine, Hollywood & Fine
Grown Ups turns out to be the funniest thing in which Sandler has appeared in years.
-- James Berardinelli, ReelViews
Diverting enough to get by, Grown Ups is Adam Sandler growing up -- but not too much.
-- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
A pleasant, genial, good-hearted, sometimes icky comedy that's like spending a weekend with well-meaning people you don't want to see again any time real soon.
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Dumb, lazy, obvious and largely pointless.
-- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
-- Compiled by Shane Minkin
n Starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James
n Grant Park, Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne.
1 1/2 out of 5 stars