Adam Sandler’s no idiot.
As co-writer, producer, and star of Grown Ups, he got to spend all last summer on vacation. He hung out for months at Chebacco Lake (a 1/2 hour north of Boston) with four of his best friends, and he spent his down time at a water park on the Cape. And, oh yeah, he cast Salma Hayek to be there as his wife through all of it. (“That kiss still didn’t feel right. Take 23!”)
Sure it sounds like fun, but it also makes Grown Ups feel a little bit mailed-in. It’s as if (and I’m probably not that far from the truth) Sandler wanted to (a) take a lake vacation near his hometown with a bunch of his friends and (b) get paid for doing it by bringing some movie cameras along for the ride.
No, Adam Sandler’s no idiot, but apparently he thinks we are.
Grown Ups begins in 1978 with Lenny (Sandler) leading his middle school hoops team to the city championship. Thirty years later he and his teammates (Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, and David Spade) gather for their coach’s funeral– at the same lake house where they celebrated all those years ago.
Lenny is now a successful Hollywood producer (we know this because his two spoiled-brat kids have a nanny). Kevin James is a lawn furniture salesman whose wife still breastfeeds their 4-year-old son. Rock is a house-husband with a preggo wife (Maya Rudolph) and an intolerable mom-in-law. Spade is single and therefore perpetually horny. And Schneider is a vegan massage therapist married to a woman (Joyce Van Patten) old enough to be his mother.
All of those story lines are set-ups for some very obvious jokes (a few of which are actually funny), and they’re often followed by one-liners so lazy that you might literally roll your eyes: Kevin James is fat! Rob Schneider is short! David Spade is horny (and short)!
While there are more than a handful of laugh-out-loud moments (even some that you haven’t already seen in the trailer), it seems like Sandler and the gang were hoping their improv skills would carry the day. Yes, these guys have worked together so much that they can’t help but make each other laugh, but a lot of times it just feels like we’re on the outside of an inside joke. (Fun fact: Grown Ups is the 15th time Sandler and Schneider have been in a movie together).
The other issue is that Sandler couldn’t decide if he was making a raunchy, adult comedy or a sweet, family movie… and, as a result, it’s neither. Two years ago, he made the very kid-friendly and very charming Bedtime Stories. Two years before that, he starred in the… shall we say ‘edgier’ Click. With Grown Ups, he attempts to combine the two. Half of the movie is a kid-friendly parable about loving your family, staying true to your buddies, and always doing the right thing. The other half is an ‘adult’ movie about making fun of other people’s families, drinking with your buddies, and always doing what feels good.
The characters go out of their way to tame their language by using ‘shiz-nit’ and ‘dink’ while at the same time launching into several in-your-face jokes about peeing, breasts, and doing shots.
If Sandler had picked one or the other, he might have really been on to something pretty good, but as it is, it’s just another sophomoric, silly night at the movies. No, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, and I’d still much rather watch the Sandler Family Vacation than most other actors’, but you can’t help but think that these guys took the ‘vacation’ part of this project a little too much to heart.