Adam Sandler used to be funny. Ten years ago he was knocking out comedies like Happy Gilmore where his brand of barely caged anarchic humour was enough to cover for the predictability of his film’s plot lines. But as time went on, he never really outgrew this mould and eventually the beast became tamed and steeped in a kind of schmaltzy sentimentality in a calculated effort to endear himself to a wider audience.
Watching Grown Ups is like having to watch someone else’s holiday video – it might have been funny if you were there but for everyone else it’s a torturous experience, a tedious waste of time in which you’re constantly looking at your watch.
Friends since 1978 when they won their high school basketball championship, Lenny (Adam Sandler), Marcus (David Spade), Kurt (Chris Rock), Eric (Kevin James) and Rob (Rob Schneider) are reunited when their coach snuffs it and they all attend the funeral. Deciding to relive past glories, they all book a trip to the lake resort they enjoyed when they were kids, dragging their wives (Maria Bello, Salma Hayek and Maya Rudolph) and children along for the ride. Hilarity does not ensue.
In Grown Ups, Sandler has enlisted some of his real life pals to play his friends – something which practically guarantees good onscreen chemistry (see the predictable Couples Retreat for more of the same), but they’re given absolutely nothing to work with. There’s virtually no plot – at least half the movie consists of them sitting around insulting each other – a series of scenes which plays out like a bunch of struggling stand up comedians ineffectually trying to swat a heckler.
The physical comedy is the lowest kind of low-brow – someone gets their face pushed in a cake, David Spade falls into some manure (twice) and various characters fall over (13 times by my count) – it’s like a cinematic version of You’ve Been Framed – lazy, easy and about as inspiring as a concrete bollard.
The rest is so tiresomely pedestrian it’s hardly worth watching: Rob Schneider makes out with his significantly older spouse to the characters’ disgust, everyone jokes about how fat Kevin James is and Mario Bello is the victim of a particularly unfunny running breast feeding gag.
These elicit no laughs at all – they’re the kind of gags you get at a wedding – forced and awkward and above all safe: Sandler dragging his feet through the deep furrows worn by his previous films, where numerous pee and fart jokes are the order of the day and getting hit in the nuts is the pinnacle of hilarity.
It’s difficult to work out the film’s intended audience. Kids won’t get the nostalgia of returning to place you loved in your youth and adults won’t find the slapstick, the forced humour or the obvious jokes appealing in the slightest.
Adam Sandler’s no stranger to dumb movies, you’d hardly expect an insightful meditation on the human condition, but at least his movies used to be fun. Grown Ups is about as far away from the definition of fun as it’s possible to get without specialised equipment.