Judge Daniel Kelly can't imagine many grown ups enjoying this flick.
Some guys need a little extra time to mature.
Grown Ups was a sizable financial success during summer 2010, indeed as of writing it ranks as the 18th highest grossing movie of the year so far. Taking comedy superstar Adam Sandler and surrounding him with his usual band of cohorts has been a recipe for phenomenal monetary gain in the past, but rarely have their efforts been met with the levels of critical scorn shoved upon this film last June. Grown Ups is indeed a lazy production, marred by a patchy gag rate and a truly unenthused turn from its biggest star. However, to call the picture an absolute travesty seems slightly harsh, Grown Ups is definitely closer to mediocrity than it is outright atrocity.
Facts of the Case
Following the death of their childhood basketball coach, a group of old school friends reunite for the weekend of his funeral. Lenny (Adam Sandler, Funny People) is now a Hollywood agent with a fashionista wife (Salma Hayek, Desperado) and kids who have become overly dependent on their wealthy lifestyle. Eric (Kevin James, King of Queens) is a successful businessman caught in a sexless marriage, and the father to a 4-year-old boy who still breastfeeds. Kurt (Chris Rock, Death at a Funeral) is emasculated due to the stay at home function he provides within his own family, whilst Marcus (David Spade, 8 Simple Rules) is 40 but still living like he's 19. Rounding out the gang is Rob (Rob Schneider, The Hot Chick), an overly sensitive individual caught in a relationship with a woman nearly twice his age (Joyce Van Patten, The Bad News Bears). For the first time in years the gang is getting together, discovering each other's families, and reliving the long hot sun drenched summers of their youths.
Adam Sandler just doesn't care in Grown Ups. After providing such a layered and engaging turn in last year's Funny People, it's disappointing to see Sandler sleepwalk so blatantly through this movie. True Grown Ups is far from the same caliber as the aforementioned Apatow flick, but the levels of laziness and indifference he displays here are unforgivable. Even the manic zing of his zanier early works is absent, rendering his performance useless. The supporting cast are a little more willing to invest some spirit into proceedings. David Spade and Chris Rock are genuinely funny when the screenplay or their improvisational skills allow for it, whilst Rob Schneider is uncharacteristically tolerable in potentially the film's most flamboyant part. Kevin James is his usual bland self (primarily on hand for tiresome fat guy gags) but at least he appears to be trying. The energy is high amongst this band of performers, with the banter and sense of fun between them feeling genuine, which at least provides Grown Ups with an affable tone. Sandler on the other hand oversees the venture like he's on horse tranquilizers; he just doesn't seem to give a crap about the project at all.
Grown Ups sends a cluttered message concerning the preservation of innocence, but is also focused on suggesting that there comes a time when everybody must mature. By nature these themes don't sit particularly well together, meaning the film is unable to make any sort of lasting emotional impression. The various family arcs actually avoid devolving into sappy sermonizing quite admirably, but not one has an original or particularly insightful comment to make either. Maya Rudolph (playing Rock's spouse) is the only wife to make an impression in the film, her comic timing and quick-witted delivery allowing her to improve any scene she's in. Hayek, Maria Bello (Secret Window), and Van Patten have very little going for them, they possess no believable chemistry with their onscreen husbands, and largely just end up as buffers for obvious jokes. A sequence in which Salma Hayek's character gets toilet roll stuck to her rear end might be the movie's nadir, and a crushing indictment of how sinfully uninspired this picture is at its worst.
I giggled a few times during Grown Ups, but one would demand as much with such an experienced group of comics at the movie's fore. The humour is very much rooted in the typical PG-13 mould (a staple of Sandler's career) with the emphasis being on broad slapstick and fart jokes for large swathes of the movie. In truth most of the film's comic gratification is provided by Spade and Rock's whiplash way with a punch line, both actors forcing some proper guffaws through their sarcastic responses.
Visually, director Dennis Dugan hasn't done much of note with Grown Ups; it looks colourful if not somewhat banal. The Blu-Ray presentation is adequate but not much more, the video capturing ample detail but lacking the killer clarity that the best Hi-Def transfers possess. The audio is much the same, although there are a few moments (the waterslide sequence springs to mind) where the sound emitting from the disc is positively booming. The extra features are great in number but fairly average when inspected for worthwhile content. There are several featurettes (all fairly short) that talk about the making off the film and its key participants, and what becomes obvious is that the creators had their hearts in the right place. The cast and crew clearly love to work with each other and wanted to translate the fun they were having on set to an audience, sadly the final film just isn't capable of doing so. There is clearly also a lot of affection for director Dennis Dugan, who gets his own cosy little tribute featurette entitled Hands on Director. Dugan's commentary is ok, not particularly focused, but he makes for a decent host. Also included are some outtakes, deleted scenes and a gag reel, all of which are more consistently amusing than the movie itself. Overall this is a lightweight Blu-Ray package, but for fans it'll surely be the source of a few extra chuckles. For added value a DVD version and digital copy are also onboard.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The obligatory Steve Buscemi cameo is pretty darn good. Maybe even the best one we've had since the homeless dude in Big Daddy.
Grown Ups won't be making my bottom 10 of 2010, but it'll be closer to doing that than entering my best of list. Mediocrity is the phrase of the day when it comes to this movie. If you liked the film in theatres (and clearly based on its box-office performance many people did) this Blu-Ray might be worth scoring when it's cheap, otherwise I'd just skip it altogether.
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