A steaming pile of Grown Ups is not as horrible as I thought.

Grown Ups

Director – Dennis Dugan

Starring – Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and a bunch of cameos.

Screenplay – Adam Sandler, Fred Wolf

In the spirit of Couples Resort, and every other film where people went to a nice place for a vacation and called it a movie, Adam Sandler took about 5 minutes and cobbled together a script with Fred Wolf (creator of such masterpieces as Joe Dirt, Dickie Roberts, Strange Wilderness, Without A Paddle and Black Sheep).  That script: Grown Ups.  This movie is a mess of cobbled together moments both gross and heart warming.   There are performances consistent, for better or worse, with the careers of some of the players (Spade, Schneider and James), some that are counterintuitive to the talents of others (Rock, Rudolph and Bello) and Adam Sandler.

I got the sense in this film of a kind of reverse of The Expendables.  In that film, a collection of actual stars from the last 25 years seemingly took pity on Stallone, who can no longer sell original scripts for real Hollywood films to be released in theaters.  The result was a minor U.S. hit with better worldwide success and a promise for a sequel for Stallone for a film other than Rocky or Rambo.  This movie felt like a Sandler traded his name, along with James’ and Rock’s, tacking on some decent co-stars like Hayek and Bello, just to get friends Spade and Schneider some screen time, which has lacked of late.

Of the plot, not much is needed.  An old coach / friend dies, bringing rich Hollywood agent Sandler back into his New England home town with his kids and wife (Hayek) in tow, where he rents out a nice house on a lake for a 4th of July blowout weekend.  He meets back up with his friends, finds them all in different states of disrepair in their lives, and then there is, in the spirit of Larry David, much hugging and much learning.

Everyone fires off verbal shots at one another to little or no effect.  Rob Schneider, with his mystic sensibilities and aged wife, receives most of the insults, but is given – by the grace of three divorces – two hot daughters…and another one.

Kevin James takes hits really well...that and a good fat joke or two

That most of these lines are not funny is inconsequential.  It is apparent that the cast, while seemingly not having seen one another in years, likes and is quite comfortable with each other.

Dreaming of an endless summer...

Indeed, this may be the most genuine aspect of the film, and it makes sense that it was such a hit with people.  Kevin James, with his propensity for bad physical acting and ability to allow himself to be made fun of, is quite effective here.  Sandler is exactly as you would expect.  Chris Rock, however, is mostly wasted, as he is made to seem about a third as smart as he is in life.  Still, this makes him about 3 times smarter than Spade.

Poor Rob Schneider and David Spade.  Lack of size and a discernible lack of talent has limited their options in the world of entertainment, and Schneider’s career, in particular, seems to have gone one Deuce Bigelow too many.  Then again, I was tired of Spade before Chris Farley died.  At that point, lacking the lovable goof ball to show a snarky disdain for, he took a turn towards what is apparently the real Spade: a drinker, womanizer and “adorable” skeese.  It doesn’t feel like an improvement.

Of  their work in this film, the results are what you’d expect.  Schneider withstands the jokes, sticks to his oddball guns (and his old wife) and comes out looking like an injured puppy.  Who wouldn’t want to help an injured puppy?

Spade, takes his shots, leers at women who are now uncomfortably half his age, and parties like…he is Chris Farley.  Then he wakes up in a closet with a breast pump stuck to himself and a dog who seems to have taken an active part in his dreams.  Yuck.

Speaking of breast pumps, Maria Bello must owe Sandler a fair amount of money.  The woman who has made Oscar worthy performances in the movies, Payback and A History of Violence, is seen here mostly letting a 4-year-old suck off of her teats.  A sacrifice, to be sure, but to a questionable end.

Salma Hayek makes several appearances here, but it never really seems like she is acting; too beautiful and really not that

Something, anything, other than nagging...

good an actress.  Rudolph does a brave job of playing Rock’s pregnant wife.  When she is not yelling at Rock’s character, she is an effective counter to the other women in the film.  Others making cameos are (on the good side) Tim Meadows, Dan Patrick, Steve Buscemi and Colin Quinn.  Joyce Van Patten provides some gently funny moments as Schneider’s wife and Ebony Jo-Ann does the opposite as Chris Rock’s mother in law.

One of the best things about the movie is the stellar soundtrack.  Joe Walsh’s “Life of Illusion” is so good, they used it twice.  Other great songs are Journey’s “The Party’s Over (Hopelessly In Love),” Bob Welch’s “Sentimental Lady” (described as “the whitest song ever” by Rudolph), Rupert Holmes’ “The Pina Coloda” song, and a wonderfully ironically poignant “Better Things” by the Kinks.

Is this film good?  No, not really, but it isn’t horrible either.  It’s the kind of movie you can expect in the summer movie season when you’re a big star and you want to treat your friends to a nice vacation on Hollywood’s dime.

(**1/2 out of *****)

2 thoughts on “A steaming pile of Grown Ups is not as horrible as I thought.

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