June 24, 2010


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Grown Ups (PG-13)
Part of the cast of Saturday Night Live circa 1993-ish reconvenes for Grown Ups, a fart-and-pratfall comedy.

Adam Sandler, star and co-screenwriter here, is joined by Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider as well as Tim Meadows and Colin Quinn (who, OK, joined the show in 1995, but still). Kevin James may or may not be playing the Chris Farley role.

Back in 1978, the 12-year-old versions of Lenny, Eric, Kurt, Marcus and Rob won a basketball championship thanks in part to their coach (Blake Clark), who taught them to give it their all. Some three decades later, the men have taken the advice to varying degrees. Lenny (Sandler) is a wealthy Hollywood agent married to successful fashion designer Roxanne (Salma Hayek) — but he’s afraid his wealth is turning his kids into weird spoiled brats. Eric (Kevin James) is married to the hot but strange Sally (Maria Bello) and is self-conscious about his financial situation. Kurt (Chris Rock) has become a stay-at-home dad who feels unappreciated by his wife Deanne (Maya Rudolph) and henpecked by her mother, who lives with them. Marcus (David Spade) is a drunken loser who has yet to grow up. Rob (Rob Schneider) has jumped from marriage to marriage and is currently married to Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), a woman who appears to be about 30 years older than him.

When the men learn that coach has passed away, they return to their hometown (which Wikipedia puts somewhere in Massachusetts, in terms of shooting location, but which could easily be just about any town in New Hampshire) for his memorial. Afterward, they all head to the lake house where they stayed after the championship all those years ago. Like long-separated cousins, the boys are both delighted to see each other again and annoyed by all the families — their own, each other’s. Though harboring various insecurities about their adult selves, the men are eager to reconnect with each other and to give their kids a glimpse at the childhood joys of simpler times.

E.g., no more texting, go play by the lake.

I see where this movie is trying to go: dudes caught between the kids they were and the men they’ve become, hanging out, ripping on each other, sharing frustrations in a non-girly way and making peace with themselves. Furthermore, I also get a sense of what the movie seems trying to do, performance-wise. These men, the actors, probably are all friends, more or less, having all been in the comedy world and (for most of them) having gone through the battle-like experience of Saturday Night Live. I’m sure there was some sense of “let’s make this natural, the way guys are when they’re together” — the wiseassery, the nostalgia for incredibly dangerous childhood pastimes (arrow roulette, for example), the mix of tough-guy-ness with middle-aged-“I’m winded”-ness. I see that the movie is going in this direction; I don’t so much see it get there.

Rob Schneider and David Spade have their issues, but Sandler, Rock and James are all hard not to like. And with the Anytown, New England, setting and Sandler’s collection of regional shirts (UNH Wildcats, etc.), I really wanted to like the movie. But every joke is followed by a bigger, stagier joke. And then that joke is followed by somebody falling. And then that is followed by a pee joke or farting. Hey, who doesn’t like a fart joke now and again, but it comes at you fast and nonstop here. The characters are always turned up to maximum wacky; we seldom get to see actual people.

Having said that, the audience I saw this movie with went nuts — guffaws as big as lion roars and high-pitched hysterical laughing that you usually don’t hear outside of a four-beers-in situation. I might have cringed but they cackled. Hey, not everybody loves Judd Apatow, not everybody can make themselves giggle just thinking of Larry David saying the words “vanilla bull---t for everybody” — just because this didn’t hit my funny bone doesn’t mean it won’t hit yours.

I almost started this review calling this movie “family friendly” (the PG-13-ness is, I’m guessing, boob-related) — it seems like it was made with older children and their parents looking to share a very broad laugh in mind and while I wouldn’t necessarily take my 10-year-old stepson to it I can definitely see watching it with him when he’s 13. I’m sure even now he’d think the pee jokes were a riot. C

Rated PG-13 for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity. Directed by Dennis Dugan and written by Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf, Grown Ups is an hour and 38 minutes long and opens on Friday, June 25, in wide release. It is distributed by Sony.