Adam Sandler is a comedy star and a brand nowadays and it’s rarely been clearer than in Grown Ups, a movie that seems to do little more than allow Sandler to hang out with some buddies and have some fun while the slightest of plots is hung on this undernourished product.
Ask 100 movie fans if they like Adam Sandler movies and I’d be willing to bet that perhaps 10% will say yes, with the others perhaps grudgingly admitting that they enjoyed The Wedding Singer or Happy Gilmore but that was it. Yet the box office figures for his star vehicles paint a very different picture. People go along to his movies and enjoy what they get, even if it is a bit bland and sub-par sometimes.
In this movie, Sandler plays a successful Hollywood agent, married to the gorgeous Salma Hayek, who heads back to his childhood locale after the death of a beloved basketball coach. He is joined there by four of his childhood friends – the quartet being played by Rob Schneider, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade – and their families and/or baggage. The ladies, all saddled with thankless roles, include the aforementioned Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and Joyce Van Patten. The plot of the movie barely takes in a potential rematch of the fateful basketball game that saw the friends become the only championship-winning team that the deceased coach ever had but is mainly concerned with Sandler trying to hide the fact that his success and money has led to his kids being spoiled and strangers to anything that seems fun, Kevin James trying to wean his 4-year-old son from Maris Bello’s generous lactations, Chris Rock being taken for granted as a caring househusband, Rob Schneider being overly emotive with his older lover and David Spade acting as carefree and irresponsibly as he must have when he was a teen.
There is a shortage of two important things here. A) Characters you care about and B) great gags. In fact, many of the best laughs come from Rob Schneider and David Spade (two other comics you’d probably be hard pressed to find vocal fans of) and the most fun I had was with the limited screentime that Steve Buscemi had. A recurring cameo player in Sandler movies, Buscemi gets another fun role here and certainly steals the show during the big basketball rematch finale that we’re supposed to somehow give a damn about.
Director Dennis Dugan, and the star man Sandler (who also co-wrote the thing) should shoulder some of the blame, proves once again that he’s not the most consistent person to helm comedy. I really enjoyed the daft You Don’t Mess With The Zohan but that was after having to endure I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. If only the guys could keep making more films like the former and less like the latter, or even this one, then I’d keep giggling. I know that’s not necessarily a popular view but there it is.
Undemanding viewers will find some laughs throughout the film but they aren’t as frequent or as funny as the cast list would lead you to expect and the strands of emotional moments running through the thing are all clumsily handled and overdone. Perhaps it would have been a great improvement if the guys hadn’t actually tried to act so grown up in places (as the amusing scene in which they take turns between looking at some trees and an attractive woman fixing her car would seem to prove). Let’s just hope there’s no sequel.
DIRECTOR: DENNIS DUGAN
CAST: ADAM SANDLER, ROB SCHNEIDER, DAVID SPADE, SALMA HAYEK, KEVIN JAMES, CHRIS ROCK, MARIA BELLO, MAYA RUDOLPH, JOYCE VAN PATTEN, STEVE BUSCEMI
RUNTIME: 102 MINS APPROX