Sometimes I like to check out a movie that I’m not particularly interested in, or one that I assume will be very popular with the general movie going public to gauge what current tastes are trending toward. I have seen Grown Ups, and I’m scared what it means for comedy movies in the U.S. if THIS is what makes people laugh.
Grown Ups looks to have an all-star cast, but you’d really be mistaken. There is but ONE bankable star in the film, and that’s Adam Sandler. But, oh how the mighty have fallen in his regard. His more dramatic turns (Punch Drunk Love, Funny People) have been enjoyable, but his comedies have been increasingly dreadful for the better part of a decade now. And I know it sounds like stock “Old Sander is awesome Sandler” stuff that you hear everyone say, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the truth. Here, you have Sandler co-writing and producing a movie if for nothing else to get some of his struggling friends a tally under the “Career Win” column, a column none of them have visited recently. Guys like Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Chris Rock.
What you get is a basketball team of friends from childhood meeting up after the death of their coach. Unfortunately, it is at this very moment, maybe nine seconds into the film where you will start to recognize the glaring annoyances that plague it throughout. The brief montage of the main characters as kids is just the tip of the iceberg. Every child has the stock recognized feature of the actor who they will grow into. Sandler’s moppy hair, Schneider’s quaff, Spade’s necklace, Rock’s buckteeth. Just lazy, boring “Look, look, we found kids that kind of resemble movie stars!”
But even still, the movie begins in a mostly harmless fashion. Then we get to see the boys all grown up, and how they each fit into a great, generalized character role. Sandler is rich and successful, Rock is a house husband, Spade is somehow a Lothario, James is a devoted family man, and Schneider is the quarky one. Let’s start by just going right at the performances of our five leads, who are the reason most people will probably buy a ticket.
Chris Rock has one of the most awkward deliveries in a mainstream comedy movie in years, and he gets not ONE laugh in the entire movie. A series of bunion related jokes serve to make him the blatant weak link of a troupe bursting with minimal acting talent. Jokes like “Toe J. Simpson”. And that’s a direct quote. From a formerly ground breaking comic who’s won huge laughs from me during most of his legendary stand up acts, this is a sad disappointment. He had to know how bad this was. Maybe that’s why he seems more than a little aloof throughout the entire movie.
Rob Schneider gives you exactly what you would expect in his role, and it’s almost commendable for a second. No, much like Rock, Schneider does nothing funny, but at least we expect this little from him going in. The script decides to slap you in the face from the word go with Schneider’s character enjoying the company of older women and his weird appearance, and these jokes don’t let up for the duration of the movie.
Then, you get David Spade. He had a good run at the start of his career with a couple of funny movies, but then he went absolutely nowhere. Grown Ups intends to insult you immediately by parlaying the fun, bachelor role onto Spade when it so obviously would’ve suited Sandler or Rock better. Spade quickly, and obviously, then becomes the weakest of the entire cast, and not once does he get a laugh. He plays the smarmy, dickish guy just like in gems Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, and the semi-underrated Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star only now the role has worn completely thin, and we get a bird’s eye view of a comic completely and utterly coasting on name recognition without the benefit of a comedy dynamo (Chris Farley) to carry his lackluster ass.
(If you’re keeping track, 3/5 of our main cast has yet to bring any laughs to an alleged “comedy”.)
Adam Sandler and Kevin James fall right into their comfort zones, and they aren’t bad. Like Schneider, they’re at least tolerable in their roles. And, unlike the other three main characters, these two are more than just outright cartoons of a type of male entering his 40s. Sandler plays a dad wanting to change his parenting style because he fears what his kids are becoming, and James, as he is known to do, takes a hilarious big man slapstick beating while producing some pretty genuine moments with his character. Still, they are smack dab in the middle of their comfort zone with no intention of testing deeper waters. But that isn’t something worth condemning.
The major female characters (Salma Hayek, Maris Bello, Maya Rudolph) are all meh, but they’re only there to remind us that most guys in their 40s are married and probably have some kids.
The movie throws darts at the same series of jokes throughout runtime. Jokes that are almost immediately established are pounded into our faces for the entire movie. The aforementioned series of foot jokes Chris Rock’s character almost immediately wears out it’s sole… I mean welcome (Goal! Foot Joke!) . Repeated jokes about Spade and Schneider’s diminutive stature, and James’ and Sandler’s waistlines are peppered throughout the entire movie. It’s all in that vein style of, “This is how guys talk with their friends in real life!”, only less than half the cast has the talent to pull it off.
The happenings of the story are pretty mundane, as it turns out to just be Wild Hogs for the frat boy crowd instead of aging Baby Boomers. It’s literally just a group of friends and their family hanging out at a lake house for the 4th of July Weekend. It’s standard fare, and simplicity is usually good. This isn’t Couples Retreat terrible, but it’s in the same ballpark. Which is sad considering there is some talent in the pool at this summer stinker.
Don’t see this movie. There is literally no need. Adam Sandler and Kevin James will get a mild chuckle or two, but they have better movies to watch if you want to see them at their best. And the rest of the male cast is nearly unwatchable. Chris Rock seems to be three seconds behind everyone else in his delivery, David Spade completely bombs, and Rob Schneider is Rob Schneider (though, perhaps not an actual crime)
It’s the absolute worst, lowest common denominator type of film. And while a Steve Buscemi scene stealing cameo does almost solely warrant admission, the rest of the two hours is filled with cringe worthy dialogue and invisible humor that take the seemingly all-star comedy team and stomps them to pieces under their shoes. With feet in them. With maybe something wrong with those feet.
(Foot jokes in this post: 2)
Final Score: 2.0/10 (Bad)