Adam Sandler, foreground, and David Spade barrel down a water slide in a scene from 'Grown Ups.'
As the title of this comedy, Grown Ups is a misnomer. There's not much adult about this sophomoric effort.
It has all the pratfalls, bodily functions humor, and female anatomy jokes you would expect from a film fronted by a cast mostly of former Saturday Night Live stars: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and, in the role that surely would have gone to the late Chris Farley, Kevin James.
Directed by Dennis Dugan ("You Don't Mess with the Zohan," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry") and co-written by Sandler and Fred Wolf ("Joe Dirt," "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star"), Grown Ups is a comedy with one simple rule to follow: when in doubt, go crass. How many times can one film milk a joke about breast-feeding? About a dozen, by my count. Some of the juvenile material is worth a chuckle or two, though you may hate yourself for laughing.
With an all-star cast, the film is mostly about punch lines, and its story — a weekend reunion of former school friends — is thin, even by comedy standards.
Once upon a time, five friends won a basketball championship in junior high. This happened to be the high point of the career of the team's coach, Bobby "Buzzer" Ferdinando (Blake Clark). And though the friends lose touch with their former coach and each other, decades later they return for Buzzer's funeral, grown up and with families in tow. Each is having a mid-life crisis (aka character arc) but it's nothing a weekend of male-bonding at a rented lake house can't cure.
Lenny Feder (Sandler) is a top Hollywood agent married to a successful fashion designer, Roxanne (Salma Hayek), whose kids are spoiled and lazy. Eric Lamonsoff (James) has an adoring wife, Sally (Maria Bello), who still breast-feeds their 4-year-old son. Kurt McKenzie (Rock) is a house-dad and budding chef who feels unappreciated by his career-minded pregnant wife, Deanne (Maya Rudolph). Rob Hilliard (Schneider) is married to a woman three times his age (Joyce Van Patten).
He is also becoming acquainted with the three grown-up daughters he's never known (this being a male-centric movie, naturally two of the daughters are physically stunning and flaunt their attributes in tight shorts and bikini tops). And Marcus Higgins (Spade) is the token single guy, a playboy as fond of alcohol as he is of women.
Other than their own issues and family problems, the biggest obstacle the film throws at the quintet of pals is the lingering ill will their championship has fostered in their opposing team, led by Dickie Bailey (Colin Quinn, yet another SNLer). With the friends' return to the small town, the opportunity for an on-court rematch beckons for the runners-up, though "Grown Ups" only half-heartedly works to build any interest in the big game. It treats the other subplots in much the same way, as story elements less about defining characters and more about setting up gags.
The best moments in "Grown Ups" come when the movie abandons its plot and lets the comic actors be themselves and crack wise with each other, as guys do. Only, Sandler and company's put downs are a lot funnier than most. "Grown Ups" isn't strictly a boys' affair, either. Each of the wives earns more than a laugh or two, in particular Rudolph and Hayek.
There's significant bro-mance on the screen, especially among Sandler, Rock, Spade, and Schneider, who came of age as performers together on SNL in the first half of the 1990s, and still have a lot of affection for each other nearly two decades later.
They, along with James and the rest of the cast, prove that all-star comedies can work if the actors are adult enough to set aside egos and concerns about camera time for the good of the film, as juvenile as that movie may be.
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