Adam Sandler needs to make new friends. The funnyman/mogul has often used comedies produced under his Happy Madison banner to dole out roles to his less talented ex-SNL chums many of whom would be forced to find other occupations if it weren’t for his patronage. But such loyalty while certainly laudable comes at a price. In the case of Grown Ups the price is far too steep.
A broad comedy that tests the limits of its PG-13 rating Grown Ups is set during a Fourth of July holiday in which five former best friends gather at a lake house to commemorate the passing of their beloved grade-school basketball coach. Much has changed for the boys all of whom are now in their 40s in the nearly three decades since their fabled championship season. During one wacky weekend in the woods their divergent fates are laid painfully bare.
Each character brings his own baggage to the reunion: Sandler’s team captain is now a big-shot Hollywood agent (a questionable fit for his good-guy goofball persona) with a high-maintenance trophy wife (Salma Hayek) and two spoiled sons; Rock’s a full-time househusband suffering in the shadow of his successful corporate wife (Maya Rudolph) and her browbeating flatulent mother; Spade looking especially weathered plays an acerbic lothario who refuses to give up his hard-partying ways no matter how pathetic they now appear; Schneider’s a massage therapist who employs a host of dubious new-age therapies to cope with the all but unbearable fact that he is well Rob Schneider; and sitcom émigré Kevin James drafted to the Happy Madison varsity squad after ably delivering the unfunny in Paul Blart: Mall Cop plays a family man ashamed of his working-class status.
It’s fitting that Grown Ups is set over the course of a weekend because that’s probably how long it took to conceive plan and produce. There’s nothing wrong with brainless humor -- it can be the perfect antidote to the leaden self-righteous fare that so often litters the multiplex -- but Sandler and company seem to have forgotten that even so-called “dumb” comedies still require competent filmmaking to work effectively.
But work seems to have been the furthest thing from their minds. In Grown Ups they lazily amble through a series of uninspired gags that wouldn’t have made the Wild Hogs cut string together a plot structured vaguely around a rematch of a climactic basketball game and task director Dennis Dugan with capturing the whole sordid affair on his cell phone camera. At least it looks like it was shot on a cell phone camera.
Sandler’s charisma may well be enough to turn Grown Ups into yet another $100 million hit for the beloved comedian with audiences perfectly eager to cough up $12 to subsidize his make-work program. But it’s abundantly clear that his friends -- and his brand of comedy -- aren’t aging well.