Experiencing 2010’s Grown Ups is akin to watching somebody’s awful home movies – the people onscreen clearly enjoyed themselves while the camera was rolling, but the sense of fun does not translate to an enjoyable viewing experience for everyone else. In fact, with the amalgamation of a non-existent storyline and the pedestrian directorial style of Dennis Dugan, Grown Ups feels less like a cohesive movie and more like an extraordinarily dull behind-the-scenes documentary about a bunch of stars awkwardly killing time between takes on another (and presumably better) movie. While it does not strike the abysmal depths of Sandler’s worst movies (namely You Don’t Mess With the Zohan), Grown Ups fails to provide anything worthwhile. Even Sandler’s most die-hard followers will have a hard time managing more than a few guffaws during this interminable slog of a comedy.
The premise is exceedingly straightforward. Close friends since 1978 when their team won a basketball championship, Lenny (Sandler), Eric (James), Marcus (Spade), Kurt (Rock) and Rob (Schneider) all went their separate ways during the march into adulthood. When their beloved basketball coach (Clark) dies a few decades later, the gang reunite for the funeral followed by a weekend of remembrance at a lake resort that they adored as kids. Bringing along their wives and forcing the kids away from their video games, the guys set out to ensure the weekend is a blast like the good old days. Oh, and for a bit of conflict, Lenny’s family have plans to fly to Italy halfway through the weekend, but this predictably falls through. There are other conflicts which the film awkwardly flirts with, but it never settles on anything worth committing to.
Prior to Grown Ups, director Dennis Dugan had collaborated with Sandler and his pals on several movies, including the memorable and hilarious Happy Gilmore. Unfortunately, Dugan has visibly lost his touch, as the words “hilarious” and “memorable” cannot be applied to Grown Ups in any capacity. The script is notably awful – literally every scene is a dreary set-up for a gag that’s usually flat and predictable. The laughs are pedestrian to a cringe-worthy extent, with plenty of fat jokes about Kevin James that are beyond old, and a few shots of Rob Schneider making out with his elderly wife (she’s way too old for him, LMFAO!). Naturally, numerous gags about poop, pee and farts were ordered up as well, in addition to a bestiality joke and some rear nudity from Spade. None of this is funny. The waste of talent here is unbelievable, with creativity and wit being eschewed in favour of having Maya Rudolph getting breast milk squirted in her eye.
Grown Ups is threadbare stuff, to the extent that reviewing the film is a hard task. After all, criticising the script seems a bit unfair because there’s no evidence to suggest that a script was even written at any point. The entire film is merely a hodgepodge of stale jokes, dramatic conflicts that suddenly arise before being solved within the confines of a single scene, and endless sequences depicting the protagonists sitting around insulting each other like 12-year-olds before saying “I’m just kidding“. (Is the irony of the title blatant enough for you?) Much like the majority of Sandler’s movies, Grown Ups wants to provide fart and poop jokes in addition to letting us know how sweet and well-meaning it is. Thus, there are awkwardly-placed scenes of half-baked sentiment. For instance, Sandler’s character performs a noble gesture towards his rival, and this is followed by a scene in which he explains his noble gesture to ensure nobody missed the point of how selfless he is. How’s that for subtlety?
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider share an easy-going chemistry in the film, with their friendship feeling completely natural. And there’s no wonder for this, because they are all friends in real life. However, none of the stars delivered memorable performances here, as they mostly just battled for screen-time and struggled for something approaching actual characters to play. Among the cast, Rock is easily the most underused, with his comedic genius being thrown to the wind in favour of a moody househusband shtick. In addition to these guys, Sandler called upon his support team of cameos to liven up the picture. Among them, Steve Buscemi is the only one to score big laughs, but it’s not enough to salvage the film as a whole. If Grown Ups was a bad movie starring just one of these comedians, it would be easy to simply group it with the actor’s list of clunkers and move on. But with it being presented as a landmark reunion of these guys, all of the film’s shoddy elements become unforgivable offences.
At the very least, there are a few moments when the jokes do hit their mark (including 2 or 3 belly-laughs), but, overall, Grown Ups simply fails to deliver the expected laugh quota. The genuine funny stuff becomes buried underneath the failed, largely predictable jokes and the overuse of lowbrow humour. And the movie commits a cardinal sin: when it isn’t funny, it becomes a boring, sluggish chore. Despite a large cast of talented comedians, there’s nothing to save this sinking ship of hopeless disappointment.