I missed my high school reunion, but Grown Ups is exactly how I pictured it would have been: You see a bunch of people you used to get along with and admire, but the years have worn away your bonds. You’re left with awkward conversation, forced pity-chuckles at lame ice-breaking jokes and a whole lot of pulling your cell phone out of your pocket to check the time.
Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Chris Rock have all made brilliant comedies before, but all have lost most of whatever comedic magic they once had. Maybe they said all they had to say. Maybe time, wealth and comfort dulled their edges. Maybe they stayed the same and I grew up.
The latter explanation is doubtful, but maybe.
For whatever the reason, Grown Ups is a painful, unfunny slog that manages to make time stand still as you suffer through a reunion comedy with all the panache of a vacation slide show. The movie fails to vault even the pathetically low bar it hits for itself, relying on poop jokes, groin injuries, farts and one-liners with all the originality and punch of a greeting card to liven things up. They actors seem to be making it up as they go along, which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that they’ve got nothing interesting to say or do.
The motif is that the five friends — Kevin James, whom I intentionally left off my list of people who have made funny movies before, is also along for the ride — who reunite 30 years after they won the city basketball championship as kids. They gather for their coach’s funeral in generic “New England” – it’s actually labeled as such onscreen — setting up a pointless running gag in which Sandler wears a rotation of shirts and hats from several colleges in the reason.
All but Spade, who plays an eternally drunken bachelor, bring their wives and kids in tow, muddying up the movie with way too many characters who serve only to sap screentime away from the stars. James, Schneider and, to some extent, Sandler, all play straight while only Spade retains his comic persona, cracking wise in the usual hit-and-miss routine he fell into once he lost comedy team partner Chris Farley.
These guys expect to be funny just by showing up, and only Sandler has that ability, and he chooses to use as little of that as possible in this outing. It’s a good thing the Sand-man made that remake of The Longest Yard a few years ago, because otherwise Grown Ups would stand out as the comedic mastermind’s worst effort by far.
Starring Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock. Written by Sandler and Fred Wolf. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Rated PG-13. 102 minutes.
Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.