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Grown Ups
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not-Particularly-Funny People"
1 stars

Over the last decade or so, Adam Sandler has made several attempts to step away from the determinedly moronic comedies that have made him an enormous box-office star in order to challenge himself with more ambitious projects that have required him to deliver actual performances. Some of these experiments have been successful (such as his astounding turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love”) and some of them have been less so (including such misfires as “Reign Over Me” and “Funny People”) but they have all seen sincere and serious-minded efforts on his part for which he deserves more credit than he has received. The downside to these films is that they have largely been rejected by Sandler’s core audience of teenage boys, miscreants and fart joke fanatics and after doing one of them, he has always felt obligated to throw a bone to his fans by following them up with an extra-stupid version of one of his standard vehicles; “Punch Drunk Love” was followed by the grotesque cartoon “8 Crazy Nights,” “Spanglish” led to his appalling remake of “The Longest Yard” and his response to “Reign Over Me” was the borderline offensive “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” In the face of the relatively tepid audience response to his last couple of films, the overly expensive kiddie film “Bedtime Stories” and the botched dramedy “Funny People,” I suppose it was inevitable that his next film would be as aggressively stupid and silly as all get out but even I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer, unadulterated cruddiness of his latest effort, “Grown Ups,” one of the most lackadaisical excuses for a motion picture that I can recall seeing

Sandler stars as Lenny Feder, an enormously powerful Hollywood agent (though not powerful enough to keep himself out of this particular film, it seems) who is vaguely dissatisfied with his life--he is embarrassed to let on that he employs a nanny, his two sons are spoiled brats who would rather play violent video games than Chutes & Ladders and would rather stay at home than accompany his fashion designer wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek Pinault) to Milan for Fashion Week. Lenny receives word that his childhood basketball coach, the man who led his team to the championship in 1978, has passed and at the funeral, he reunites with his old friends and fellow teammates; garden supply salesman and token fatty Eric (Kevin James in a role that presumably would have gone to Chris Farley if things had worked out differently), emasculated househusband Kurt (Chris Rock), diminutive horndog Marcus (David Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider), a New Age weirdo who the others presumably keep around so that they can look upon him and feel better about themselves. After the funeral, the guys, along with their respective wives and children, go to a sprawling lake house to spend the 4th of July weekend spreading the coach’s ashes and searching in vain for something remotely resembling a story to develop.

As the weekend goes on, Lenny tries to convince his kids that materialism is bad and cup-and-string phones are good, Roxanne learns that having a thriving career inevitably turns women into monsters who can’t wait to inform their adorable young daughters that there is no tooth fairy, Eric tries to convince his wife (Maria Bello) that perhaps their four-year-old son is a tad old for breastfeeding, Kurt tries to stop the constant browbeating from his workaholic wife (Maya Rudolph) and her monstrous mother (), Rob tries to reconnect with his two ridiculously hot and estranged daughters who show up in outfits that would have gotten them pitched out of Coyote Ugly (there is a third daughter but she is only there to look dowdy and ugly and therefore seem like a more plausible progeny) and Marcus tries to hit on Rob’s daughters (save for the ugly one, of course). The big dramatic arc comes when Dickie (Colin Quinn), a local who was a member of the basketball team that our heroes defeated in that long ago championship game, turns up, claims that Lenny committed a foul when he made his winning shot and demands a rematch in order to set things right. That’s right--the entire film winds up sort of hinging on the outcome of a basketball game, though this one isn’t so much H-O-R-S-E as it is H-O-R-S-E-#-$-%-@.

I will admit that I haven’t exactly been the biggest fan of Sandler’s slob comedies over the years--the only one that I can semi-tolerate is “The Wedding Singer” and that is almost entirely due to the efforts of the ever-adorable Drew Barrymore--but they at least for the most part had contained plots that had something resembling narrative drive and focus to them. “Grown Ups,” on the other hand, is such a lazy and undisciplined mess that it seems as if Sandler and his longtime collaborators, co-writer Fred Wolf and director Dennis Dugan, decided to conduct a private experiment by producing a movie with as little actual effort as possible and the result is a monstrosity that is even deadlier than Dren from “Splice,” though infinitely duller. In fact, the film is so completely threadbare that reviewing it is nearly impossible. I can’t criticize the screenplay because there is barely any evidence that one was written at any point--the entire thing is just a hodgepodge of running jokes that aren’t funny the first time and grow less so with each reprise, dramatic conflicts that suddenly arise and immediately disappear within the confines of a single scene, gross-out jokes that would seem juvenile under normal circumstances and feel exceptionally puerile in the hands of middle-aged men, awkwardly placed scenes of half-baked sentiment (the worst being the part where Sandler’s character performs a noble gesture towards his rival and then follows it up with a scene in which he explains his noble gesture to everyone so no one misses the point of how selfless he was) and endless scenes in which the guys sit around awkwardly and insult each other and then say “I’m just kidding.” (Note: If you have written a comedy script and roughly 20% of it consists of characters telling each other “I’m just kidding,” it might behoove you to rewrite the material to make it funny enough so such underlining is unnecessary.)

The characters are so utterly nebulous that they make you long for the comparatively fully-fleshed-out characterizations on display in “Jonah Hex”--the guys are either bores or jerks, the women have no apparent purpose other than to briefly appear in bathing suits and cheerleader outfits and to serve as beards for the guys and the kids are pretty much forgotten throughout. (Note: If you have written a comedy script and the character played by Rob Schneider turns out to be one of the most likable of the bunch, it might behoove you to rethink things regarding the others.) The performances from the actors couldn’t be lazier if they tried and believe me, no one here is trying. In fact, with the combination of the non-existent storyline and performances and Dugan hit-pedestrian directorial style, “Grown Ups” feels less like an actual movie and more like an exceptionally dull behind-the-scene documentary of a bunch of movie stars awkwardly killing time between shots on another and presumably better movie.

Watching “Grown Ups” is like be forced to endure the vacation videos taken by a bunch of rich, self-satisfied schmucks clowning around and being asked to pay $10 for the privilege--it almost makes the similar “Couples Retreat” look like a model of committed and progressive filmmaking by comparison. Outside of the sight of Salma Hayek (using her new last name Pinaut here for the first time, perhaps as a form of plausible deniability) in a cheerleader outfit and a bathing suit, an amusing cameo from Steve Buscemi as another disgruntled local and one genuinely funny bit (mostly because it actually feels as though it was an idea that was worked on instead of just being half-assed as the cameras rolled) between Rock and Tim Meadows in which the argue over which one was the town’s black kid and which one was the “other” black kid, there is literally nothing to see here. Sandler’s fans will presumably flock to this one but even his most ardent followers--not the most discriminating lot, after all--may find this to be an insult to their collective intelligence. Then again, “Grown Ups” is so completely bereft of anything resembling actual comedy or anything resembling a point that it may one day be embraced by cultists as a brave and truly avant-garde stab at a new form of anti-comedy that was simply decades ahead of its time. I’m just kidding.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19314&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/25/10 00:10:16
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User Comments

4/22/19 Pun-nut butter jelly time More like GROAN-ups, amirite? Badum tish. 1 stars
1/05/15 Mario is the Best This movie was awful! So boring. 1 stars
3/01/14 josie cotton is a goddess Could have been decent if it were MUCH shorter. 2 stars
8/21/13 Charles Tatum Fitfully funny, and compared to other Sandler efforts, really good! 3 stars
10/12/12 Martin I agree with brianordorf completely. Fun for them. Not for me. 2 stars
2/22/11 Bronson Good 1 stars
10/28/10 Rolly Hyatt It was... okay. Sitcom and sub-sitcom quality humour all the way through, but cute. 3 stars
8/20/10 dudicle moronic and awful! 1 stars
7/08/10 christy spires the movie wasn't as funny as it should've been 3 stars
7/08/10 damalc funny moments, but what's the point? 3 stars
7/01/10 Ming I think there is just too many stars all want pieces of the joke. 2 stars
6/30/10 john smith not his best 3 stars
6/27/10 Roy It's Sandler - poop, pee, and fart joke and screaming are his career 1 stars
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  25-Jun-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2010



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