'Grown Ups' fails to live up to Sandler's reputation

Mittwoch, Juni 30, 2010 | by: Mat DeKinder

"Grown Ups" is the quintessential broad, high-concept Adam Sandler comedy that typically serves as a critic's punching bag.

There's nothing at all challenging or edgy about the movie, which are two essential elements of a successful comedy. The character arcs are shaky, the family-friendly theme gets spoon-fed to the audience and not once will this movie make you double over in laughter.

That said, there is an unshakable "niceness" that permeates this film to the point that you almost don't mind that the movie isn't so great. This dose of satisfaction all boils down to the chemistry between the cast.

"Saturday Night Live" alums Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider join Kevin James (who most assuredly would have sat this one out if Chris Farley were still alive) as five childhood friends who are reunited when their old basketball coach dies.

They spend the Fourth of July weekend together in the same lake house with their thoroughly dysfunctional families in tow.

The female half of the cast gets some solid representation as well with Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph playing disproportionately attractive spouses.

"Grown Ups" is at its most cringeworthy when the actors struggle with their poorly written "characters" and their myriad of flaws that one weekend together will magically overcome.

When the movie does wander into the realm of the enjoyable is when these guys simply pal around and we actually feel like we're spending the weekend at the lake with a bunch of old friends.

Sure, it's not like it was in the old days when things got wild and the good times lasted into the wee hours of the night, but there is space in this movie to reminisce about all the laughs there were in the past.

"Grown Ups" was directed by Dennis Dugan, who is the go-to director for Sandler's Happy Madison production company. Sure Dugan deserves the blame for the movie's borderline nauseating celebration of friendship and family, but I'll be so bold as to throw the guy some props for giving his cast the room to do their thing and for realizing that there are certainly worse things in this world than family and friends to heap ridiculous amounts of praise upon.

Look, if by this point you wander unsuspectingly into an Adam Sandler movie, you have no one to blame but yourself. The expectation of middle-of-the-road, lowest-common-denominator comedy is firmly in place, and within those parameters I would have to say that "Grown Ups" rates as slightly above-average - even with the requisite Steve Buscemi cameo.

The Summer of 2010 is quickly shaping up to be the Summer of Mediocrity and no movie may better describe this season of "meh" than "Grown Ups."

"Grown Ups" is rated PG-13for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity.

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