Ever wonder what an Adam Sandler home video would be like? Speculate no further. Grown Ups retains the expected humor associated with the lead comedian and his faithful slapstick crew, but is also restricted by the inherent indulgence in immaturity and the rather pointless meanderings of kids who never grew up. The gang no doubt had fun making the movie and some of that entertainment trickles down vicariously to the audience, but the lack of any real conflict or purpose makes the jokes as cohesive as the skits on a Saturday Night Live episode. Those that find Sandler’s Happy Madison-style escapades amusing will cull enjoyment from the brighter bits, but one does have to question the involvement of more established actresses Salma Hayek and Maria Bello. Lenny (Adam Sandler), Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (David Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider) were best of friends growing up and, while all have gone on to lead different lives with varying degrees of success, their youthful natures have never faded. When “Buzzer”, the boys’ beloved basketball coach passes away, the five men reunite at his funeral and plan out an honorary vacation at a lavish lake house. What begins as a simple getaway from the daily grind turns into a weekend of fun, family, and reliving the wild misadventures of youth.
Grown Ups isn’t without humor, although nearly all of it is the exact same comedy that has surrounded the five unique comedians for the last 15 years. Kevin James still gets all of the falling-on-the-ground slapstick associated with his weight, along with the food jokes that go hand-in-hand with his appearance. Adam Sandler has strayed away from the borderline mental retardation that made him famous, instead adopting a series of misguided family value crises as the catalyst for his laughs. Rob Schneider is forced to be his usual sexual deviant, this time going after the older ladies, and David Spade is the typical single guy prowling for promiscuity, although he ends up circumventing the eye candy (Di Quon and Madison Riley) altogether. Chris Rock is the only one who is noticeably hindered by the lack of language and vulgarity, resorting to a role reversal in which he takes up an effeminate guise.
The failure in Grown Ups isn’t just the terribly commonplace jokes, involving bodily fluids, inebriation, breast-feeding, sexuality, bunions, injuries, race, the way Rob talks, and even pies in the face – it’s the complete absence of a plot. Characters are established and a promising setting is introduced, but then nothing happens. Five families go on vacation and we’re forced to watch them have fun. If only we could have as much fun. All of the characters end the exact same way they began, and never does any conflict arise. When someone gets angry, they immediately forgive; when long forgotten rivals intrude, they’re quickly dismissed; and when children misbehave, the next scene finds them reformed.
There’s no plot without conflict, and there’s really no point in watching these actors jovially lounge about. It might have been more effective if the five comedians were just thrown together to improvise, but unfortunately at some point someone presented a script. Is the message one of falling in love all over again, or bonding with children, or reconnecting with old friends, or is there even a moral to discover? Like Couples Retreat last year, Grown Ups seems like an excuse for a group of celebrities to make money – while being on vacation and simply filming themselves having a good time.- The Massie Twins