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Movie Review: Grown Ups
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Grown Ups
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider
Rated PG-13
Release date: June 25, 2010

If you only see one movie this summer, it would be a smart idea to make it anything other than Grown Ups, the latest film to star Adam Sandler and the usual group of people who seem to rely entirely on Sandler for work.

What rough passes for the plot of the movie is this: A group of friends were all on their grade school basketball team together and won a championship game. Thirty years later, their former coach passes away, and the friends decide to spend a weekend at a cottage on the lake after his funeral. They bring their families, straight from the funeral, and hilarity ensues… right? Not really.

Every single character is a one-trick pony that runs the same joke into the ground repeatedly. Eric (Kevin James) is a family man who tries hard to be a big shot but cannot have a honest conversation about most things. Kurt (Chris Rock) is an emasculated househusband who likes to cook, but only so much that it’s mentioned once early in the film. Marcus (David Spade) is a sex-hungry womanizer. Rob (Rob Schneider) is a new-age dimwit who likes much older women. Then there’s Lenny (Adam Sandler) who’s rich, successful, and great at sports all while being surprisingly humble and down-to-Earth about it all.

Wait a second, one of those doesn’t seem right. Lenny seems too perfect. How did that happen? One look at the credits explains how: written and produced by Adam Sandler.

As if it wasn’t bad enough without him making himself the greatest guy on the planet, there is little about this comedy that is actually funny. The humor is an awkward mix of slapstick jokes clearly aimed at kids and not-so-subtle sexual innuendo. It seems Sandler didn’t have a real target audience in mind and was just making jokes that would crack up his friends on set. The result is a film that jumps from slow-motion closeups of bare asses to people tripping and getting mud on their face. It’s hard to imagine that even fans of Sandler’s usual schtick will be amused by this film as it attempts to be more realistic than his other films while maintaining the over-the-top site gags. Sandler randomly sticks a finger up Schneider’s ass as a funeral at the beginning of the film, and it’s all down-hill from there.

Lenny’s kids are spoiled Hollywood brats who didn’t know TVs existed that weren’t flat-panel and obnoxiously demand Godiva hot chocolate from their nanny, who Lenny brings with them on the trip despite being embarrassed by his financial success. (Don’t forget he’s humble about his successful life). Kevin’s wife Sally (Maria Bello) still breastfeeds their 4-year-old son and their daughter can’t handle being told “no” about anything. Kurt’s kids don’t seem to have any problems, but his wife Deanne (Maya Rudolph) doesn’t respect him. Marcus doesn’t serve much purpose other than the occasional sex joke. Rob is the same as he always is, a minor character who is mostly a punching bag for other characters while making exaggerated facial expressions.

But it’s all okay, because through the magic of skipping stones and paper-cup telephones, everyone manages to instantly work out all their issues and becomes the best of friends. They spend the rest of the film jumping from scenes that have little-to-no connection with each other. Whether they’re spending the day at the most dangerous waterpark in the world or building a treehouse from scratch (at the cabin at which they are planning to spend a total of 3 days), everyone learns the value of family, or something. It’s not really clear because the film has nearly no plot.

It’s rare that one struggles to find even a moment of laughter from a comedy, but there is one point in Grown Ups that got a moderate chuckle from the mostly empty theater. You’re probably wondering what happened to the kids who lost the championship game to Sandler’s group at the beginning. You’re not? Well, it turns out they all grew up to be sad losers who never left the small town they grew up in. Tim Meadows makes a short appearance as one of these guys, and he and Chris Rock have a short argument over who gets to be the token black guy for this film. This moment of meta-humor might get a few laughs, but is overshadowed by the fact that the film is mocking a Hollywood cliché that it is guilty of using itself.

Sandler’s production company Happy Madison is named after the last two films he made that were actually funny, and has churned out little besides vehicles for his friends to star in. Growns Up is no different. At its best moments the film is boring and incoherent, while at its worst it is mind-numbingly stupid.

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