1 September 2010

Movie Review: Grown Ups


Grown Ups
2010, 102mins, 12
Director: Dennis Dugan
Writer (s): Adam Sandler, Fred Wolf
Cast includes: Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Maya Rudolph, David Spade, Maria Bello, Rob Schneider UK Release Date: 25th August 2010

Adam Sandler is a talented comic actor with a mixed track record, successes like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” are balanced out by misfires such as “50 First Dates” and “Click”. Last year Sandler took a walk on the wild side with a more dramatic turn in Judd Apatow’s exceptional “Funny People”, but for 2010 it’s back to the usual mugging and old school slapstick shenanigans. “Grown Ups” teams Sandler with his regular band of buddies; David Spade, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and even Steve Buscemi are present, which at least allows the film to embody some sense of believable comedic chemistry. However despite the natural flair that exists between its actors, “Grown Ups” too often feels like a home video reel depicting a bunch of famous pals on a laid back holiday. The film manages to conjure up a few chuckles from time to time, but the story is formless and the gag rate staggeringly hit and miss.

Following the death of their childhood basketball coach, a group of old school friends reunite for the weekend of his funeral. Lenny (Adam Sandler) is now a Hollywood agent with a fashionista wife (Salma Hayek) and kids who have become overly dependent on their wealthy lifestyle. Eric (Kevin James) is a successful businessman caught in a sexless marriage, and the father to a 4 year old boy who still breastfeeds. Kurt (Chris Rock) is emasculated due to the stay at home function he provides within his own family, whilst Marcus (David Spade) is 40 but still living like he’s 19. Rounding out the gang is Rob (Rob Schneider) an overly sensitive individual caught in a relationship with a women nearly twice his age (Joyce Van Patten). For the first time in years the gang is getting together, discovering each other’s families, and reliving the long hot sun drenched summers of their youths.

At least the cast always seem to be having fun. The onscreen energy is high within this band of merry performers, but “Grown Ups” doesn’t have a strong enough script to provide audiences with a similar dose of summertime cheer. It would be unfair to say the screenplay never finds a funny pitch, several sequences and lines of dialogue are after all worth a giggle, but overall the laughter rate is too thin on the ground and the gags overly pedestrian. Sandler was once a braver and raunchier comedian than he is in “Grown Ups”, the actor (who also co-scripted) falling back on predictable fart jokes and obvious pratfalls when things seem to be stalling. The banter between the actors seems heavily improvised, but there’s an underlying laziness to the affair that strikes of four grown men having a laid back beer guzzling session, rather than a selection of seasoned comics working hard to solicit laughs from viewers. Even the jokes that land aren’t particularly memorable, and anything of worth is run into the ground before the film’s undercooked finale.

Sandler favours a more reserved style of performance here (gone are the absurdist rants of Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore’s enraged tirades), allowing the rest of the cast to plough the more fertile comedic ground. David Spade finds the most success, using his whiplash way with a punch line and acidic sarcasm to admirable effect. More tolerable than usual is Rob Schneider, who along with Joyce Van Patten works hard to allow some of the grosser material to form into modestly amusing guffaws. Chris Rock is a complete non-event and mostly wasted, whilst Kevin James seems only on hand to provide a buffer for some hackneyed fat guy jibes and fundamental humiliation. The supporting cast encompasses Maya Rudolph (playing Rock’s pregnant spouse), Hayek and Maria Bello (the milk pumping wife of James). All three roles are utterly thankless, only Rudolph being given any real chance to stretch her considerable comic talents.

The film doesn’t sink into complete sappiness, but neither does it attain any of the emotional weight or moral fibre it wants to possess. “Grown Ups” sends a cluttered message about savouring childhood innocence, but equally that maturing is a fundamental part of life. There are also plenty of dilemmas to be solved within each family unit, but none of these undercurrents attract any worthwhile resonance or value, “Grown Ups” content to parade out its messages in a conventional and undercooked fashion. The final act of the film is agonisingly mediocre (only an inspired Steve Buscemi cameo offers relief), and it culminates with a flatly shot and pointless basketball showdown. The film begs audiences to care about this sporting clash, but the film doesn’t justify such affection, hell, the entire scene is just the result of an irregular and unconvincing subplot concerning a group of local adversaries.

“Grown Ups” has a manufactured look to it, sporting the same vibrant but unoriginal photographic palette that most brisk summer comedies attempt to replicate. In many ways it perfectly sums up the movie as a whole, tolerable but utterly forgettable and underwhelming. “Grown Ups” is a silly picture that carries with it absolutely no heft or innovation, resulting in a middle of the road Sandler experience.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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Anonymous said...

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