- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
magine the wrap party for the 20th season of “Saturday Night Live.” Adam Sandler and Chris Farley are leaving the show, so the drinks are a-flowin’. David Spade calls up former “SNL” cast mates Chris Rock and Rob Schneider, and the five of them play an epic game of “Yo Mama,” where each tries to come up with the best putdown on a given subject (age, weight, looks, your biggest weakness, etc.) The sun is about to rise, and the guys know that they will never have this moment together as long as they live, so they make a deal: years from now, they agree to take these jokes and write a movie around them, just to have an excuse to relive old times and enjoy one hell of a paid vacation in the process.
This is that movie.
To its credit, it’s clear that the cast of “Grown Ups” (present-day funny fat guy Kevin James fills in for the deceased funny fat guy Farley) had a great time making this movie. They hit a water park, play some basketball, and spend most of the shoot on a lake house somewhere in New England. (Strangely, they do not get any more specific about the movie’s location than that.) If only it were as much fun for the audience. Fleshing out that laundry list of putdowns are half-baked bits about inappropriate breastfeeding, farting mothers-in-law, and sexually voracious senior citizens. Its heart may be in the right place, but the brain is, well, dead.
Sandler, James, Rock, Spade and Schneider are childhood friends reunited for the first time in ages when their basketball coach passes away. The five decide to rent a lake house for the Fourth of July weekend with their families. There really isn’t any more story than that. There are plot developments – the kids just want to stay indoors and play video games, the wives are all making their husbands miserable in one way or another, and Sandler runs into a guy who’s still bitter about a blown call from a game that took place in grade school (!) – but none of it really matters. This movie is about watching Sandler and his friends coming up with ways to have fun on camera. If that sounds self-indulgent, it’s because it is, to the point where Sandler is married to Salma Hayek and James is married to Maria Bello, which prompted a critic friend to joke that this movie is not a comedy but rather science fiction.
There is not much to sink your teeth into here. Hayek, Bello and Rudolph are shrews of one order or another, and are ultimately redeemed not by their humanity but their cheesecake quotient. The kids come and go like props on a stage. The movie’s best bits – and the word ‘best’ definitely comes with an asterisk – involve the five male leads, and only the five male leads. Taking turns not staring at Schneider’s ridiculously hot daughter, or Sandler and James doing a late-night scene drinking water from separate gallon jugs that will surely generate dozens of takes for the DVD gag reel – that is why this movie exists. Maybe they thought it would show their ‘Actors – they’re just like us!’ side, but in fact it does the opposite.
“Grown Ups” is one of the flimsiest movies to come down the pipe in a while. There is no plot, the characters are cardboard cutouts, and the physical humor is tired. If they had put as much effort into the script as they did the soundtrack – which is fantastic – they might have given us a better reason to watch the cinematic equivalent of “SNL” home movies. As it is, you’d be better served watching “Happy Gilmore” with the sound off while listening to classic rock.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
It was probably always too much to hope that a cast which works as often as the one in "Grown Ups" would reunite to do an audio commentary for the film, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing that no one, not even Rob Schneider, stepped up to the plate to provide one. That doesn't mean the DVD is completely devoid of special features, though. The featurette "Laughing Is Contagious" offers a look behind the scenes which confirms that the film was just as much fun to make as you'd think, and it's reiterated by the gag reel. Also included is a featurette which explores the cast of "Grown Ups," specifically the friendships between them.