I didn’t expect Grown Ups to be good, but I at least expected to give it one of those “it looks like they’re having more fun on screen than we are in the audience” type reviews.
That’s usually what happens when a big star like Adam Sandler rounds up his pals—in this case, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Kevin James—to make a movie: The film is beset with inside jokes and a kind of giddy camaraderie that doesn’t quite translate into a satisfying viewing experience.
But that is not what happens here. Because everyone involved with Grown Ups seems miserable. Beyond miserable—filled with a kind of unspeakable, existential dread. Kevin James, in particular, looks like Admiral James Stockdale: “Who am I? How did I get here?” (There are also a few women, real actresses no less—Salma Hayak, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello—who got roped into this fiasco. They will be no doubt be wiping this film from their resumes.)
The premise is this: Five guys, who played on a championship middle school basketball team together, gather 30 years later for the funeral of their beloved coach. Sandler’s character is a hotshot Hollywood agent married to a fashion designer (Hayek); Rock is a house husband, bullied by his mother-in-law; Schneider is a New Age type married to a much older woman; James is a regular guy, embarrassed by his relative lack of wealth; and Spade is a single ladies’ man. (Ewww.)
They are supposed to be old friends, but they all seem to hate each other.
At various times, characters are mocked for being fat, for being incontinent, for wearing a toupee, for having a bunion, for being too feminine, for being too old, for having a funny voice, for farting. . . and on and on and on. The insults fly, fast and furious, but they are not funny. They are just nasty. At times, they seem strangely personal.
There is also physical humor: Kevin James flies into a tree. David Spade lands face-first in a pile of dog excrement. Rob Schneider gets stabbed with an arrow. Steve Buscemi, in a small role, ends up in a full-body cast.
What gives? I’ve loved Sandler’s recent work in Reign Over Me and Funny People, but if this off-putting film is any indication, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be friends with the guy.