A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Adam Sandler used to be funny. 6 years ago he starred in 50 First Dates and the bitter-sweet Spanglish, which were decent films. Since then however he has been a star on the wane, living off his past glory days of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, attempting to catch the essence of those characters in a string of increasing bad movies. Last year’s Funny People was meant to be the start of the revival, but sadly too that wasn’t quite up to snuff. Perhaps then with the help of a few good friends he could get this comedy train back on track and usher in a new era of humour. For Grown Ups Sandler is joined by a cast of familiar faces like Rob Schneider, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade. So does all this comedic star-power equal a funny movie?
Back in junior high 5 friends made up the school basketball team. The bond they shared made this team unbeatable and so they became citywide champions. Now 30 odd years later the passing of their beloved coach has brought the 5 friends back together to the lakeside cabin where they celebrated their victory. Over the course of the weekend the boys play as kids do, mocking, taunting and pulling pranks, while their respective parters feign disgust. And that’s about it as far as the plot goes.
Sandler plays the straight man, which is disturbing given his talent for pulling faces and generally acting like a kid. You’d think this role would suit him but the writers have backed him into a corner leaving the psychical comedy to the rest of the cast. Kevin James takes on most of the heavy lifting on the slap-stick front with a serious of outrageous stunts. There isn’t a whole lot more to his character but he does fine. David Spade is just creepy, but then he’s nearly always that and that’s why he finds work. He does lewd and crude well when he is called upon. Chris Rock gets the main one-liners and delivers them with all the expected bravado and over-confidence. He’s very obviously Chris Rock though as there is no characterisation attempts whatsoever. It’s best just forget Rob Schneider. On the female front Maya Rudolph gets some nice lines, but her character is never given any room. Both she and Maria Bello exist purely to tut about their husbands. Salma Hayek is quite good in her limited role, with a few nice prat-falls. Joyce van Patten gets the one genuine moment in the movie but it gets lost in the mayhem, which is a shame. Madison Riley has absolutely no impact. There is a nice cameo role for Steve Buscemi, and he’s always a welcome addition to any movie.
Somewhere along the line someone decided that an abundance of set-pieces, 5 comedians, and a bucketload of other cast members would suffice instead of an actual plot and scripted jokes. They were wrong as there is absolutely no forward momentum in this movie and no tangible resolution or discovery, Director Dennis Dugan, working with Sandler for the fifth time, lets his cast just go rampant in an orgy of puerile nonsense, and bad jokes. This worked wonders for Animal House back in the day but here it just doesn’t. Unlike The Expendables here a huge cast of stars do not make the movie worthwhile.
If you’re after a good comedy then go elsewhere. If you have the mentality of a five year old and love fart jokes then maybe rent the DVD.