Published Jun 24, 2010When their high school basketball coach dies 30 years after their championship season — David Spade and Rob Schneider were starters, so R.I.P. dramatic verisimilitude — five friends and their families gather to mourn his passing and retreat to their old New England campground for a weekend of yocks and reminiscence in wannabe summer blockbuster Grown Ups.
Following hard on the heels of the underappreciated, if uneven, Funny People, Grown Ups may read at first blush like a further iteration of the now-middle-aged Adam Sandler's not-unwelcome inclination to plumb issues of maturity and creeping senescence for source material. But even the briefest exposure to this slothful, clock-punching Great Outdoors/Meatballs mash-up confirms that we're once again trolling in the shallowest and least sanitary end of the comedy pool.
Sandler takes the lead as a successful, douche bag-y Hollywood agent and hands out parts to his various hack pack homies, arbitrarily casting both to type (Spade as an amoral grease ball, Kevin James as a portly blowhard) and against it (Schneider as a shamanic vegan healer, a preposterously-underused Chris Rock as an emasculated househusband). He also gamely puts his name to a screenplay that functions a little too obviously as a make-work vehicle to gather up his boys for a low-wattage improv-cum-vacation on the studio dime.
Lord knows there's nothing wrong with lowbrow — Ramones? South Park? Yes, please — but even by the not terribly exacting standards of the collected Sandler/Schneider/Spade oeuvre the pickings here are jaw-droppingly juvenile and insultingly lazy. In the absence of plot developments, as commonly understood, the assemblage serves up a potluck of junior high spritzing — urination, lactation and Rock's endlessly flatulent mother-in-law come in for particularly comprehensive exploration — that feels like cynical recycling of tepid randomalia orphaned from other projects with stricter quality control. Sandler can't even posit a dumbing-down for the tween demo. To pick just one example, Spade's incessant macking on Schneider's estranged (and, yes, indescribably hot) daughters craters any PG possibilities.
Ultimately, and with an inevitability so blatant as to be visible from the Andromeda galaxy, the cast succumbs to Mother Gaia's healing magic. Sandler's turbo-diva fashion designer wife and Malibu-ized, nanny-texting brats self-actualize through stone skipping; Rock's apron-wearing milquetoast grows a pair; James cops to his manifold business failures; and so on.
The crowning ignominy is an out-of-leftfield rematch of the Big Game that serves only to honour some misplaced notion of genre requirement, and to showcase Sandler's sweet bank shot. At the end of the day, Sandler excavates a little selflessness, a late-arriving Steve Buscemi tragically smokes what's left of his indie cred like a salmon and all the life-lessons learned are commemorated, god help us, with an actual group hug.
Grown Ups may enjoy a couple healthy weekends out of the gate as a faux-July fourth outing for recession-hobbled Americans, but will surely, mercifully be consigned thereafter to some lower circle of SNL alumni hell where it can burn for eternity out of the gaze of actual adults. (Sony)