Grown Ups Movie Review

Why is it that comedies about middle-aged men regressing to their childhood so rarely, if ever, work? Not much more than an in-joke between the actors, this film is amiable but never funny. And despite some hackneyed moralising, it has nothing to say.

Five school buddies return home 30 years later for their beloved coach's funeral. Lenny (Sandler) is now a high-powered Beverly Hills agent married to a hot fashionista (Hayek). Eric (James) is an average guy with a lively wife (Bello) and unruly kids. Kurt (Rock) is a frazzled househusband married to a high-powered shrew (Rudolph). Marcus (Spade) is still the same lothario. And Rob (Schneider) is an overly emotional goofball with a much-older wife (Van Patten). Altogether, they head to a lake house for a week of wacky antics and shallow soul-searching.

Since Sandler is gathering his old Saturday Night Live gang, the plot is echoed off-screen too, and perhaps that would have been a better movie. At least it's clear that these guys are long-time buddies, and when they drift off-script the dialog actually has some humour in it. It also looks like they're having a lot of fun together, especially in the water park sequence. So you have to wonder why the script and direction continually push things too far with corny gags, silly slapstick and a big streak of sentimentality.

Dugan directs the movie with no discernible style, while the script pays little attention to any of the characters (everyone but Lenny is a thankless stereotype), so all we're really left to enjoy is the terrific score of late-70s classics. And this nostalgia does manage to capture the feeling of reuniting with old friends after a lot of time has passed, with the added wrinkle that they're now in different family traditions and social positions.

But the slapdash approach leaves the comedy feeling simplistic and sometimes very sappy. Of course, as things progress, lots of bonding ensues, with contrived warmth and lesson-learning punctuated by gross-out gags and moments of contrived embarrassment. It all leads to a stale showdown with their childhood rivals that will leave undemanding audiences sighing with fake emotion. Just like everyone on screen.


Comments

Grown Ups Rating

" Grim "

Rating: 12, 2010

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