Sunday, August 1, 2010
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Grown Ups exact that there’s nothing particularly right with it either. It’s everything you’d expect from an Adam Sandler comedy: it’s got poo and pee and grown men acting like stupid children, talking about the things that most fascinate those who never quite managed to grow out of grade eight like boobies and tree ropes and shooting arrows into the sky and seeing who is the last to run for cover, etc. It’s all perfectly serviceable and inoffensive, but so what? Why be content on being stuck in middle ground? It’s amusing without every really being funny; nice without ever really being sweet; and immature without every really being rambunctious. And then it ends. It's characters go on vacation and the movie goes right along with them. The film stars all of Adam Sandler’s go to guys: David Spade, Chris Rock, Kevin James and Rob Schneider, who all, more or less, play variations of their go to character. They’re five high school buddies who go back for a weekend at the old cottage after the death of their beloved basketball coach. Their week, unsurprisingly, will consist of them all sitting around, drinking beers, trading one-liner insults as if they’d been keeping them to themselves all these years, and just general screwing around. Every once in a while they decide to get up and actually do something like a trip to the water park in which, first one, and then all of them realize that the dye they put in the water to detect pee isn’t an old fairy tale after all. Grown Ups does a lot of that. It’ll give you a joke that is kind of amusing and then repeat it again and again. This is the unfortunate case for Spade who, while running, trips over a stump to land face first in doo-doo only to, moments later, have it put right back there when Sadler runs over his back. It’s like director Dennis Dugan and his boys need to either make sure they wring it for every laugh it can get or to make sure we understand just how funny they are being. And that’s ultimately the problem. All of these men, at any given moment, are acting as if they are really funny guys. The best comedy happens when it involves people who don’t know that comedy is happening to them. Every laugh in Grown Ups seems to come packaged with a wink to the camera. Although Grown Ups is a pedestrian movie in which its stars can all play it safe and phone it in, Spade, although never mistaken for a great comedic talent, is particularly lazy playing the freewheeling Marcus who drinks too much, sleeps on the couch, beds anything that gives him a second look and is that crass, bloated moron that no one really likes, but you don’t have the heart to tell. Spade’s been playing that character his entire career and here essentially looks like a man who walked on set, delivered his lines once and went back to bed. As for the rest of the cast: Rock is reduced to bad puns about his mother-in-law’s enormous bunions; Sandler does Sandler; while James, the most likable of the bunch manages to get off a few laughs here and there. Schnieder however, again not surprisingly, plays right into big caricature as the pretentious, toupee clad spiritualist husband of a much older woman and three daughters, only one of which, of course, is believable as his. The story has a mild message about how Sandler, not too believable as a powerful Hollywood agent, is distressed that his kids are too lazy to do anything for themselves and spend all day playing violent video games, and wants them to get outside and discover the fun of nature that him and his buddies had when they were young. The wives of the men are played by Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph who bring more star power to an already crowded story. In the end the movie is too bland, the characters all too nice, and the comedy all too unsophisticated to really work. The guys seem to be having fun, and that helps, but in the end, the realization creeps in that the premise of five guys sitting around at a beautiful cottage, going over the past would be a lot more enjoyable to be doing than watching.