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‘Grown Ups’ can’t rise above kid humor

POSTED: June 23, 2010 11:30 p.m.
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Adam Sandler, foreground, and David Spade attempt to recapture their youth in "Grown Ups."

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We all know what to expect from "Grown Ups."

It stars Adam Sandler and everybody who’s ever been on "Saturday Night Live." (Or maybe it just seems that way.) Sandler co-wrote the script — what little script there is — with Fred Wolf, who used to write for SNL. Dennis Dugan ("You Don’t Mess With the Zohan," "Happy Gilmore") directs.

What you might not expect is that even compared to other "Adam Sandler movies," "Grown Ups" is stupid and clumsy. And that’s really saying something.

The set-up borders on pathetic.

Lenny Feder (Sandler), Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James), Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock), Marcus Higgins (David Spade) and Rob Hilliard (Rob Schneider) were the starting five for their eighth-grade basketball team. Their beloved coach Bobby Ferdinando (Blake Clark) lead them to a championship and apparently taught them a lot about life.

So for one thing, this movie is about middle-aged men reliving their glory days. (Yawn.) But I’m sorry, when your glory days were in eighth grade, that’s just sad. Move one, fellas.

"The Coach," as they call him, couldn’t have taught them much, though, because after the opening scene the movie jumps forward 30 years, and they’re all unhappy.

Sandler’s character is a wealthy Hollywood producer, married to a top fashion designer (Salma Hayek Pinault), with spoiled rotten kids. Rock plays a stay-at-home dad who feels unappreciated by his working wife (Maya Rudolph) and kids. James is an overweight family man whose wife (Maria Bello) still breast feeds their 4-year old son.

For the most part, none of these are real problems. Just like "Sex and the City 2," in the current economic climate this movie asks us to feel bad for these people?

Meanwhile, Spade and Schneider play characters with genuine problems that could be played for interesting comedy. Spade drinks too much and is stuck in arrested development.

Schneider is on his third marriage and estranged from his three daughters. Rather than mine that part of his character for laughs or for drama, the movie relentlessly pokes fun at Schneider’s voice, his marriage to a much older woman (Joyce Van Patten) and his new age beliefs.

When the coach dies, the guys all gather for his funeral and to ... and to ...

That’s just the thing. After the funeral, nothing happens. If I continued to summarize the story, I would have to skip to the end and spoil it — because nothing happens.

The guys and their families spend the weekend together in a big lake house, and you’d think they might spend their time working through their problems. Instead, James falls down a lot. Schneider and Van Patten talk dirty and gross out everybody else. Bello sprays breast milk. Madison Riley and Jamie Chung, playing Schneider’s daughters, show up and wear skimpy clothing so the guys can gawk at them.

At one point, everybody goes to a water park for no reason, except that Riley and Chung put on bikinis, James pees in the pool and Steve Buscemi makes a funny cameo.

I’ve stopped using character names because for most of the movie, the actors seem to forget they’re playing roles. Everyone’s just there to deliver a pot shot or punchline, then collect a paycheck.

Well into the movie, one of the characters tries to lay out some homespun wisdom about life. She says the first act is exciting and great, but the second act is when the depth comes in. That may be true of life, but it’s not true of this movie.

Rather than developing these characters, some of which are actually interesting, the movie morphs into a series of skits so lame they wouldn’t even make it onto SNL. (Not ready for prime time, you might say.)

Laziness is the one unforgiveable sin of making movies, and these guys are guilty. The cast is talented and funny, and I have no idea why half of them signed on for such a nothing movie.

To paraphrase "Billy Madison," we’re all dumber for having seen this movie.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.

 



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