The following review originally was written for The Parallax Review, a film review site of which I was the co-founder and managing editor. I have decided to collect the writings I did for The Parallax Review and preserve them here. I will be posting a few of these older pieces every week. My review of Grown Ups was for the “In Theatres” section of The Parallax Review.
by Matt Wedge, Managing Editor
If familiarity breeds contempt, Adam Sandler must be really familiar with his audience. Grown Ups is a stunningly lazy assemblage of lame gags and creaky one-liners assembled into something roughly resembling a movie. That Sandler, as star, co-writer, and producer would choose to foist this under-cooked mess on the fans that loyally support his every movie, is insulting.
The plot, such as it is, involves five old friends (Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider) coming together for the funeral of their middle school basketball coach. They are all going through rather tame mid-life crises and decide to use the funeral as an excuse for an impromptu reunion. Families in tow, they rent a sprawling cabin on a lake where they proceed to make wisecracks at each other’s expense and work out their individual problems in the sappiest ways possible.
This would be all fine and good, if the movie were actually funny. But Sandler, his co-writer Fred Wolf, and director Dennis Dugan are not interested in making a good — or even mediocre — movie. They seem to be more interested in catching the quickest, easiest joke on take one and moving on to hanging out with all of their old SNL friends. Here are some quick examples of the lazy gags they rely on:
- Make fun of Rock’s status as a househusband
- Make fat jokes aimed at James
- Make short jokes aimed at Spade and Schneider
- Fart jokes
- Peeing in the pool jokes
The really sad thing is that they’re not even funny examples of these generic topics. Blame the dog for your gas? Brilliant!
Even worse than the lack of laughs is the embarrassment I felt for the genuinely talented people that Sandler swept up into his wake. Once again, Chris Rock, one of the funniest men in America, is put on screen without any material to work with. Kevin James has started to show himself as a welcome screen presence with a subtle way of handling a one-liner. Here, he’s left out to dry just as much as Rock. Then there are the real head-scratchers in the cast: Salma Hayek and Maria Bello. How they got talked into this disaster is beyond me. Is the promise of a working vacation really that tempting?
And then there’s Sandler. Once upon a time, his movies, while still dumb, at least managed to entertain. Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer still make me laugh. He has shown an ability to move outside of his comfort zone (Reign Over Me, Funny People), and while those films haven’t set the box-office on fire like his increasingly insipid comedies, they showed a performer trying to grow beyond his limited expectations. But maybe I gave him too much credit.
It’s fine to go back to the well every now and then, but at least make an effort when doing so. Grown Ups finds Sandler scraping the very bottom of the barrel and not even making an effort to hide just how bad the results are.
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