Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grown Ups (2010) Review

Grown Ups
Back then they were too young to know better. Now they have no excuse.

As some of you may notice, I like to use tweaked versions of taglines for movies that I have reviewed on this site. One of my favorites has to be the one I wrote for the review of Alien, where I used the now classic line “in space, no one can hear you scream,” and changed it around to humorous effect. However, sometimes the creators of these taglines do my job for me. See the first Alien vs. Predator review for some proof. And now they have accomplished my task again with Grown Ups, a lazy piece of comedy writing (or lack thereof) that essentially says that Adam Sandler hasn’t really progressed in maturity since his excellent, self-deprecating turn in Funny People. Although that may be because Funny People was really Judd Apatow’s baby, whereas Grown Ups was created by Sandler and his old buddies.

Plot Synopsis: Five friends Lenny, Eric, Kurt, Marcus, and Rob were junior high school basketball champions in 1978. Now in present time, they have all grown separate from each other and lived out their lives differently; Lenny is married and has two spoiled, video game addicted sons, Eric is also married and has children, Kurt and his wife are expecting a child soon, Marcus is a single womanizer, and Rob is married to woman who is about 30 years older than him. With the death of their old coach, they are reunited and plan a weekend vacation over at the cabin where they spent their childhood summers together.


Grown Ups is essentially the Couples Retreat for Happy Madison fans, with Vince Vaughn & Co. being replaced with Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and Rob Schneider and the island resort changed to a summer cabin (which is a resort too basically). Grown Ups is funnier than Retreat at least, but only by a very small margin. While I wouldn’t call typical Sandler director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore) a good comedy director, he has enough experience to know these actors and how they work, even if he can’t make much of this skeleton of a script. Lazy filmmaking and lazy writing make a lazy movie. The only reason for this movie’s existence is so that a group of famous actors can get together and joke around with each other, while the rest of us struggle to understand if we should be laughing with them. With so many experienced people collaborating on this movie, there’s no reason the final product should be this uninspired.


Everyone in the cast is essentially playing themselves, but then again I’m not really complaining because almost all of them have good chemistry with each other and sell their character’s friendship. I say almost because Chris Rock feels like the odd-man-out with absolutely no material to work with and only seems to be there as the token black friend (which I’ll admit does create a decent joke during the ending). Spade and Schneider seem to be the only ones with unique character traits, while Sandler and James just play things safe. We get it, Kevin James is fat; it is not funny anymore. Sandler also seems to be continuing his latest trend of playing the straight man to his more wacky friends (such as in The Longest Yard), and I wish he could have brought with him the same manic energy that made Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison what they were. The women in the movie similarly don’t get much to do. Why waste such actresses as Salma Hayek and Maria Bello, when eye candy will suffice? And like Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph seems like she’s there just to fill out the cast.

And like Couples Retreat’s cheesy message about marriage, Grown Ups similarly crowbars in a message of its own about getting out and enjoying the outdoors. Now, this is actually a really good message that I somewhat appreciate being in a movie, but the jarring way in which it conflicts with the over-the-top gags and juvenile humor creates a movie that tries very hard to meld drama and comedy together without being too particularly good at either one. The drama simply distracts us from the comedy, and the comedy is lifeless and dull, with the exception of a few moments where I actually laughed pretty hard. Despite those moments, Grown Ups isn’t worth your time or money however.


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