Go Away, “Grown Ups”
By Roxana Hadadi
With age is supposed to come wisdom, but for a movie named after adults, “Grown Ups” certainly lacks any.
In fact, the film basically flops in all regards: It’s not very funny, it’s characters are little more than caricatures and the five main comic leads – Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James and Rob Schneider – lack any kind of chemistry. It’s all one-liners and unfunny bits slapped together into a narrative, with any attempts at emotional symbolism and depth ending up being either uncomfortable or superficial. For five men that are so funny separately, the fact that they can’t click is certainly a disappointment – and as a result, the 102-minute runtime feels unbearably, torturously long. Don’t wear a watch. You’ll constantly check it to ask, “How much longer?” and the answer will never be pretty.
The film begins by introducing us to the Fernando Five, basketball players for St. Mary’s junior high school who win a championship under the leadership of their coach (Blake Clark). At a celebration after the game at a rented lakehouse, the five promise their coach “to play life just like you played that game today” – but 30 years later, a lot has changed. Lenny (Sandler) is now a top Hollywood agent with a humongous house, a nanny and two spoiled sons; Eric (James) is an overweight lawn furniture salesman who breaks his family’s backyard pool with his girth and can’t say no his two children; Kurt (Rock) is a stay-at-home husband and father whose passion for cooking is mocked by his mother-in-law and family; Marcus (Spade) is a womanizer who sleeps with a different girl every night; and Rob (Schneider) is on yet another marriage, this time to an older woman whom he calls his “special lady.”
Despite being out of touch for many years, they all come together at their coach’s funeral – where Rob takes grieving to a whole new level by singing “Ave Maria” while twirling around with a portrait of the deceased – and become reacquainted with each other’s quirkiness. As Marcus cracks inappropriate jokes to break the ice and Eric’s wife Sally (Maria Bello) breastfeeds their 4-year-old son in public, it becomes clear that they all need to get back in touch with who they were three decades ago – and since Lenny has rented the very same lakehouse from their youth for the next few days, it’s a perfect opportunity.
But the lakehouse holds memories for the five friends, not their wives or children. Though some struggle to make the adjustment – Lenny’s sons don’t understand the appeal of playing in nature, while his wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) frets over her upcoming show at Fashion Week in Milan – the five friends, when reunited, begin to realize that the mistakes they made in their lives, like Rob’s lack of attention toward his three daughters (two hot, one not) and Eric’s inability to deny his children of any desire, can be fixed. With that knowledge in hand, they turn their attention toward the families, hoping to better their relationships as a whole
The film could have worked, if only it were heartwarming in any way. Instead, there isn’t enough character development to make anyone sympathetic or believable: How did Lenny become a top agent? Why does Kurt allow himself to be bossed around so much by his wife? And did everyone drop out of contact with Marcus and Rob, leaving them to fester in a pool of bad relationships and alcoholism? Since there’s barely any background regarding how they became friends or how they grew apart, it’s hard to take the five friends’ relationship seriously. Even more of a challenge is the relationships between them and their wives – we hear that Lenny and Roxanne met while he pretended to shop for clothing, but what about Eric and Sally or Kurt and Deanne (Maya Rudolph)? Any information whatsoever could have helped these relationships, which take up most of the film’s focus, be more believable.
And then, there’s the total lack of funny. Film clichés like hot daughters and old neighborhood rivalries both come into play, and neither of them has enough of a twist to make the film’s outcome surprising. Add in jokes about overweight children, sexual abuse, immigrant nannies and violent videogames, as well as implied sex scenes and two instances where an arrow goes through a man’s foot, and nothing about the film seems fresh or new. Not even cameos from Steve Buscemi and Norm MacDonald can save this one; “Grown Ups” is just an embarrassment for everyone involved.
Also out this week: “Knight and Day.” Read our review here.
Feel like staying home? “She’s Out of My League” is out on DVD this week–read our review here.