It’s telling that what should be a surefire all star cast from the mid 90s has produced a comedy so colossally unfunny. If you had told me in 1993 that a movie starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and their fat friend would be boring, pedestrian and stupid, I wouldn’t believe you. But here we are in 2011 and they’ve done just that.
Grown-Ups is the story of five guys who were in a pee-wee basketball team when they were 12 and the highlight of their childhood was winning The Big Game under the guidance of a coach who believed in them. Flash forward 30 years, all have drifted apart, and all of them are brought back to the same New England lake resort where they spent that summer after The Big Game to attend the coach’s funeral. Sandler rents the lake house for the weekend and the guys and their families begin the process of reconnecting with each other and themselves. At the end, they re-play the basketball game against the same team they played in Jr. High, who haven’t gotten over that loss.* Blah blah, pedestrian plot, but nothing terribly offensive about it. Unfortunately, a pedestrian plot is about the best thing about this crappy movie.
Sandler is a powered Hollywood agent whose kids are spoiled, lazy & over tech’d. I know this because I think he specifically says “I am the biggest agent in Hollywood and I can’t get my kids to listen to me.” Chris Rock is an underappreciated, oversensitive stay at home dad with two kids, married to a career woman whose mother, a stereotypical big, bossy, noisy, sarcastic, gross old lady, lives with them. Think Madea meets the grandmother from Nutty Professor. In fact, I’m shocked they didn’t stuff Tim Meadows, Tracy Morgan, or Rock himself into a fat-suit to play the character. Kevin James is their good natured, passive, and approval seeking fat friend. He’s also got most of the physical comedy bits in the movie, though they are pretty tame. They’re the parents who can’t say no, with one rotten kid and another who’s still demand nursing at 48 months. Rob Schneider is the hippy dippy new-ager on his fourth marriage, this time to an elderly hippie. He’s an idiot, just like he has been in practically every movie he’s been in. David Spade is essentially the same character he’s been playing since Joe Dirt: single stupid redneck scumbag. Gone is the prissy sarcastic preppy from the PCU-Black Sheep era, I guess another consequence of Chris Farley’s death.
Most of Sandler’s regulars are in here at various places. Blake Clark (the dad from 50 First Dates), Norm McDonald, Tim Meadows, Collin Quinn (as Sandler’s Junior High rival), and in a particularly stupid part, Steve Buscemi, who pretty much discards all the credibility Boardwalk Empire restored to him after his post-Fargo malaise.
There are two major problems with this movie. First, there is absolutely zero development of the characters beyond outline-y mentions in the dialog, but what is more, nothing is done with even those outlined characters.The wives, Selma Hayek, Maria Bello and Joyce Van Patten, are actually not bad in this….Rudolph has some fairly funny lines, or at least good delivery of modestly funny lines, and Bello is fine. They get a funny bit with a Canadian banana-hammock lifeguard at the waterpark, but that’s about it. James’ part is really problematic. He’s playing his usual character too and, it’s not fair to hold the fact that he’s NOT Chris Farley against him, but one can’t help but ask the question “what would that part have been if Farley hadn’t destroyed himself?”
The bigger problem is that the lines the characters say are just NOT funny. Most of the jokes are fart jokes, dick jokes, boob jokes, or other sophomoric humor, which I can tolerate if they are funny, but they’re not, which makes things pointless. I don’t expect a whole lot from Schneider, Spade, or even James, but how the hell do you take one of the single funniest men on the PLANET (Chris Rock) and give him the most boring character in the whole movie? Adam Sandler is a fine actor in a lot of ways, and he’s also capable of being very funny, but here he’s written a boring, dumb, unfunny, movie chock full of his buddies, pretty much a silly vanity piece.
* Note: What is this notion that junior high is the pure high time of one’s life? Contrary to what Richard Dreyfus says, my friends when I was 12 are NOT the best friends I’ve ever had. I barely even remember their names…. if it weren’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t even know where they live or what they’re doing, and about the most I’ve gotten is a comment on my kid’s pictures. Heck, I don’t even keep up with my high school friends. I’m gonna go with college friends… I talk to college friends literally on a daily basis. Or write reviews for their sites 😉