Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude Material including Suggestive References, Language and some Male Rear Nudity
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Adam Sandler & Fred Wolf
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Blake Clark & Steve Buscemi
Adam Sandler has easily become one of the most picked-on figures in Hollywood. It seems like I’m jumping on the band wagon by turning Sandler into a punching bag, but I originally liked this comedian. HAPPY GILMORE, BIG DADDY, and ANGER MANAGEMENT are probably my favorite films that Sandler has been involved in as a comedic actor, but the man can also really act in serious roles too (see PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE). It’s absolutely infuriating to see Sandler rely on lowest common denominator humor and phone in damn near every movie he’s been involved with in the last decade. Who thought JACK & JILL (ranked one of the worst movies of all time) was a good idea? How about THAT’S MY BOY (also ranked one of the worst movies of all time) or BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR (which Adam co-wrote)? GROWN UPS is no exception. It’s not that the film is out-and-out unwatchable, but rather that it’s bland beyond belief and plays out more like a horrible feature-length episode of a bad sitcom.
The so-called story of GROWN UPS revolves around a group of childhood friends reuniting for a weekend of fun after their old basketball coach dies. That’s the whole plot in a nutshell. Each friend has their own separate issues, some more than others, and the tone can’t seem to make up its mind about either being sappy family friendly film or a gross-out affair. The really awful thing about either one of these is that they both feel forced. It’s all been-there done-that humor. Plenty of jokes involving bad hair (courtesy of Rob Schneider), sex with old women (also courtesy of Schneider), farts, breast milk being drunken by a four-year-old child, and somebody getting hurt with no real repercussions. Comedy is a subjective art form, but everything here has been done to death in previous films or is at the level of a Junior High kid’s sense of humor.
One thing I kept thinking while watching GROWN UPS was about the lack of continuity in the story. It played out more like a series of SNL skits that were all thrown together in a single movie. A webisode format on the official Happy Madison website would have been a more effective way of getting these scenes out (although the material would still be just as lame). What’s even more insulting to the viewer is that everything feels half-assed as far as this being a full-length movie. Some inherent conflicts are set up between a couple of characters and then resolved about two minutes later. A skillfully crafted film might exploit these potential sub-plots for all they were worth and make a coherent plot around it of sorts. Not GROWN UPS and not Adam Sandler, he’s far more concerned about getting back to slow-motion scenes of David Spade falling face-first into a cow turd (not only seen once, but twice).
The cardinal sin with GROWN UPS is that it doesn’t seem like anybody’s putting any real effort into being funny. It’s a comedy without laughs or a story to speak of. I have a theory that this was all a ruse set up as an excuse for the Happy Madison crew to hang out. The viewer is paying the price for to watch some of these admittedly funny (in the right roles) actors just phone it in. This includes everybody, even an underused Maya Rudolph (seen in a brief part in MACGRUBER with far more laughs than this film) and even more underused Steve Buscemi (appearing for three scenes total). When the movie tries to be sentimental is when it really goes down, because it showed a brief promise that there could have been a decent story inside of GROWN UPS. It all seems like a rushed, phoned in, forced, and false comedy on every affront.
GROWN UPS wasn’t funny in the slightest. It would have been right at home as a bad TV movie on NBC complete with a laugh track, because everything is just so tame and lame. Some of the crude material gives it the PG-13 rating (mainly due to the disgusting breast milk scenes), but it’s just not anything new or remotely entertaining. Most of the devoted followers of Adam Sandler claim that the hatred for him is unneeded, but Sandler used to be funny and he isn’t anymore. I didn’t think some of his earlier work was good (e.g. BILLY MADISON), but things like HAPPY GILMORE and BIG DADDY entertained me. As he’s progressed in his (unfortunately) successful career, Sandler has become content with playing it easy.
The jokes in GROWN UPS are obvious, forced, or just plain lame. There’s no story to the film and nobody’s trying with this material. It’s one of the worst comedies I’ve seen in the past five years and the hatred for Sandler is very much warranted if this is the kind of crap he’ll keep pumping out. GROWN UPS is a waste of everybody’s time with the possible exception of the all-star cast. They probably got paid handsomely for their farts.