Grown Ups is the perfect poster child for this maddening summer of movie mediocrity. It’s not so hilarious that you need to rush to see it but not so bad that you will suffer unduly if you take a chance on its more-or-less family friendly charms (provided your family is up for crude jokes, a running gag about breast-feeding a 4-year-old and an unnerving shot of a pants-free David Spade).
On the grand scale of Adam Sandler movies — and oh, how grand that scale is! — Grown Ups registers as a middle-of-the-pack comedy, not the instant classic of a Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer but not the heinous affront of Little Nicky. Its premise is slight: Five junior-high buddies reunite for their basketball coach’s funeral, wives and kids in tow, and reconnect with the simple pleasures of friendship, constant insults and being whacked in the family jewels.
Modest lessons at best, but Lenny (Sandler), now a Hollywood agent, wants his obnoxious offspring to put down their smart phones, step away from the video games and skip some rocks on the lake, damn it. He wants his glam designer wife (Salma Hayek) to forgo their planned trip to Milan to hang out with his buddies (Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider) and their families. That she agrees is a foregone conclusion, but the greater mysteries — what on Earth is Hayek doing in this movie, and, for that matter, why is Maria Bello here, too, and who believes she’d really be married to Kevin James? — are left unanswered.
Still, the guys are more amusing than not, and they display the easy chemistry of real-life pals. Sandler and Fred Wolf are credited with writing the screenplay, but most of the sloppy dialogue in Grown Ups sounds as if the comedians are riffing on each other’s jokes. This approach doesn’t always work, but when it sputters there are still fragments of humor to sustain us, providing you think it’s really funny for a guy to slam into a tree (I do, actually). There’s also a great running gag about the guys’ most moronic childhood game, “arrow roulette,” which is pretty much what it sounds like and exactly the sort of idiotic activity adolescent boys are wont to try once they’ve escaped adult supervision.
In the end, the movie is about having no regrets. Fortunately, whether you decide to see it opening weekend, wait for On Demand or ignore it altogether, Grown Ups will keep your regrets to a minimum.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph.
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenwriters: Adam Sandler, Fred Wolf.
Producers: Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler.
A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 102 minutes. Crude material including suggestive references, language, nudity.