Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Adam Sandler, Fred Wolf
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek
Released: 2010 / Genre: Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB
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I wanted to like Grown Ups. The critics said it was rubbish but I didn’t care. I wanted to believe Adam Sandler’s 2010 effort – that he writes and stars in – was the sort of film, like so many of his, that appear immune to critical adulation. I really enjoyed Don’t Mess With The Zohan for instance. But in this case the critics are right. Grown Ups is a pretentious love-in between five actor friends and a feeble director who have managed to somehow con Columbia Pictures into distributing 100 minutes of holiday home video. As the minutes ticked by I went in desperate search of a story, of some element of drama, of character development…I even had time to wonder where the laughs were. Effectively, I went in search of a point. And ultimately, I realised Grown Ups was just an exercise in Hollywood pals getting together and having fun at my expense. Quite recently, where have I seen that before…oh yes, Mr Sandler, the ironically titled Funny People.
Curiously, Grown Ups, which reminded me a little of the much better The Great Outdoors with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd, has no real plot. It begins with footage of five children winning a key basketball match, then flicks thirty years into the future when the five meet again at the funeral of their recently deceased coach. They decide to spend a little time at the lake house they frequented as children. With wives and their own children in tow, it’s a chance for the men to have a little fun as adults, while rekindling some of that youthful exuberance long since lost.
The film proceeds to hang together on this paper thin set-up, presumably utilising the talents of its five experienced and talented comedians to provide a multitude of laughs. What is therefore surprising is how few genuine laughs there are. If you consider Kevin James falling off a rope swing or Rob Schneider’s toupee flap about in the wind in the slightest bit funny then you can look forward to at least two laughs in the film.
What is indeed most damning in Grown Ups is how director Dugan fails to make the most of the cast. Chris Rock, a very talented stand-up comic and creator of a successful television comedy, is completely anonymous. Too much time is given to David Spade who isn’t the comic star he once was alongside Chris Farley in the likes of Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, and Rob Schneider, the runt of the litter, who, almost as some kind of divine intervention, gets an arrow through his foot. No real explanation is given as to why he’s married to a seventy-year old woman, just as Kevin James’ four-year old boy still enjoying the milk of his mother’s breast is given no reason. I guess they thought it was funny.
I feel the need to clarify that I am an Adam Sandler fan. But Grown Ups never goes anywhere. There was potential in the premise – old school buddies look back at their life thirty years later, they find the youthful energy they once had, rekindle the old friendship, solve issues in their now adult lives and show their own kids the way forward. But like the basketball rematch that concludes the film, it all feels like an after-thought to five rich, successful Hollywood stars enjoying a few weeks of fun together while earning a little money along the way. Steve Buscemi’s cameo ends up being the only thing worth revisiting in this terrible film.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews