Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Movie Review: Grown Ups

Grown Ups **
Directed by:
Dennis Dugan.
Written By: Adam Sandler & Fred Wolf.
Starring: Adam Sandler (Lenny Feder), Kevin James (Eric Lamonsoff), Chris Rock (Kurt McKenzie), David Spade (Marcus Higgins), Rob Schneider (Rob Hilliard), Salma Hayek (Roxanne Chase-Feder), Maria Bello (Sally Lamonsoff), Maya Rudolph (Deanne McKenzie), Joyce Van Patten (Gloria), Ebony Jo-Ann (Mama Ronzoni), Di Quon (Rita), Steve Buscemi (Wiley), Colin Quinn (Dickie Bailey), Tim Meadows (Malcolm), Madison Riley (Jasmine Hilliard), Jamie Chung (Amber Hilliard), Ashley Loren (Bridget Hilliard), Jake Goldberg (Greg Feder), Cameron Boyce (Keithie Feder), Alexys Nycole Sanchez (Becky Feder), Ada-nicole Sanger (Donna Lamonsoff).

It seems to me that some movies get made because the cast simply wants to hang around together goofing off for a couple of months. Sometimes – like with two of the three Ocean’s movies directed by Steven Soderbergh – movies like that can be fun and charming. And sometimes, like with Grown Ups, the result doesn’t add up to very much. Watching the film you get the feeling that everyone had fun making the movie – but aside for a few moments in the film, I didn’t have all that much fun watching the result.

The movie is about five friends who in 1978 were best friends and the starting line-up of a champion basketball team. Now 30 years later, they get together because their coach has died, and they have to come together for the funeral. You get the feeling that while they have all remained friends, they have certainly drifted apart in the intervening years – yet when they get back together, they still act like teenagers.

Lenny (Adam Sandler) has become a powerful Hollywood agent, married to a beautiful fashion designer (Salma Hayek) and had three kids – who have become spoiled and lazy. Eric (Kevin James) has a more blue collar life, but is also married (to Maria Bello, and no one seems to ask how James nabbed Bello, but whatever), and had a couple of kids of his own. Kurt (Chris Rock) has become a stay at home husband and father to his powerful wife (Maya Rudolph) and complains that his efforts (at making pumpkin risotto among other things) are going unnoticed. Marcus (David Spade) acts like a teenager all the time – no wife, no kids and that’s the way he likes it. Rob (Rob Schneider) is on his third marriage (to the much older Joyce Van Patten), and is worried that he has no connection with the kids from the previous marriages, and has become a health food nut. It would seem like these five guys, no matter how close they were in high school, would have nothing in common now – but they find that common ground, mostly by ignoring their differences and acting like idiots. They spend a week together at a lake house in their old home town, and everyone learns some valuable life lessons.

I can see how a movie like this could have worked – even one with the same cast. Everyone seems to have chemistry together, and you really do get the sense that they are all friends in real life and like hanging out with each other. Grown Ups is at its best in those lazy scenes where its just the guys, or just the girls for that matter, hanging around, talking, laughing and hanging out. Whether these scenes were tightly scripted or not, I don’t know – but they certainly have an improvised feel to them that works. Most of the best one liners come out of these scenes as well.

Unfortunately more often than not, Grown Ups tries to force these characters into some assemblance of a plot. There is a lot of talk about that winning basketball game, and the guys even meet the team they beat – and they still have not gotten over the loss and demand a rematch. There are also too many scenes of the various couples and families working through their own problems, and learning valuable lessons as a result. And strangely, I think the movie is least funny when it tries the hardest to be funny – the one liners that feel scripted all fall flat.

None of this is to say that Grown Ups is a painful movie – it isn’t. The cast is too talented for that. Adam Sandler has grown and matured somewhat since he was Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore – more comfortable in his own skin and acting normally. When he is given a great role – as he was in Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People or Reign Over Me – he can play it well. But he seems to want to make these family comedies more often than not, and while they aren’t really my thing, I have to admit he does them better than a lot of people (Eddie Murphy for instance). But I like Sandler in many of his more recent roles. Kevin James is also a talented comedic actor – although I don’t think any of his film work can match the work he did for years on The King of Queens. Chris Rock will always be a better stand up comedian than an actor, but he is likable enough in most of his roles. And hell, this time even David Spade and Rob Schneider (two actors I have never liked) are pretty good as well.

What I wish when I see a movie like Grown Ups is that the writers (in this case including Sandler himself) weren’t quite so lazy – that they would in fact push these actors a little bit further. But Grown Ups takes the easy way out practically every time. Yes, there are a few laughs scattered throughout the movie, which is probably all the film was going for. But had Sandler pushed himself and his friends a little bit harder, they could have had a much better movie. Instead they took the easy way out – and while Grown Ups will almost assuredly make a lot of money, it is a movie that almost everyone will forget by the time they reach the parking lot.

1 comment:

  1. ha! ha! ha!wheres china anne mcclain she was in grown ups too you should really pay atention plus,cameron boyce with curly hair is HOT!