Movie review: 'Grown Ups' dumbs down
"Grown Ups" is infantile, sexist and imbecilic. And those are its good points.
Moviegoers who haven't had lobotomies may want to stay clear of this latest Adam Sandler vehicle, where moron comedy rules supreme.
With Pauly Shore out of the picture -- thankfully -- Sandler can lay claim to being the master of this aggressively stupid brand of comedy. Only Martin Lawrence provides competition.
Moron comedy is characterized by humor that appeals to members of the church of the LCD -- lowest common denomination. The humor's trademarks include bodily functions jokes, put-down jokes, gross-out jokes, offensive jokes, pratfalls and, above all, puerile behavior. Repetition is another distinctive trait. If you think watching a man getting slapped with a dehydrated banana is funny once, you'll be rolling in the aisles the second time.
You want wit? You want imagination? You want even a modicum of intelligence? Go see "Toy Story 3." You'll find none of that here. Cleverness is an anathema to moron comedy. The humor isn't so much lowbrow as it is no-brow. And, for the record, this critic loves lowbrow comedy, that is when it rises above the IQ of a 10-year-old.
What's particularly maddening about Sandler is that, unlike Shore and Lawrence, he has talent, as he displayed in one of his few non-moronic comedies, "The Wedding Singer." In "Grown Ups," he plays Lenny Feder, a hotshot Hollywood agent who lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with his gorgeous wife, Roxanne (Salma Hayek), two bratty sons (Jake Goldberg and Cameron Boyce), a cute daughter (Alexys Nycole Sanchez) and a Chinese nanny, Rita (Di Quon). The repetitive joke with Rita has Lenny trying to pass her off as an exchange student. Hysterical.
The film opens in 1978 with Lenny as a 12-year-old playing in a championship CYO basketball game with his best friends, Eric, Kurt, Marcus and Rob. Now a good movie would have included a scene showing their friendship in action. This isn't that movie. Instead, the movie flashes forward 30 years and the best friends have drifted apart as adults. Bringing them back together is the death of their CYO coach, Bobby "Buzzer" Ferdinando (Blake Clark). Think "The Big Chill" for the "Hee Haw" crowd.
We now meet Eric (Kevin James) as a family man with wife, Sally (Maria Bello), a bratty daughter (Ada-nicole Sanger) and a cute son (twins Frank and Morgan Gingerich). The repetitive joke here concerns Sally's desire to keep breast-feeding her son even though he's 4 years old. The movie just can't get enough of these rib-ticklers. It's almost like Sandler and co-writer Fred Wolf wanted to milk this joke. Rimshot, please.
As for Kurt (Chris Rock), he's now a house husband. The joke here is that he can't cook very well. Now that is just too funny. He lives with his pregnant wife, Deanne (Maya Rudolf), two nondescript children, (Nadji Jeter and China Anne McClain) and Deanne's mother, Mama Ronzoni (Ebony Jo-Ann), who, in fine stereotypical form, is cantankerous and flatulent. Repetitive farting? Riotous. Repetitive farting from old people? Priceless. Mama also has a gross bunion, and nothing tickles my funny bone more than a gross bunion joke.
Then there's Marcus (David Spade), a bachelor who's a horndog. The originality astounds.
Finally, we have Rob (Rob Schneider), a thrice-divorced loser whose main squeeze is now Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), a much-older woman. Can you guess the source of humor here? Rob also has three daughters. Two (Madison Riley and Jamie Ching) look like super models, the third (Ashley Loren) does not.
The movie spends an entire scene showing our five heroes staring at Miss Riley's derriere as she works on a car. Her posterior turns in the film's best performance. Just to prove that the movie is an equal opportunity exploiter, it contains a scene where the five wives ogle a hunky man at a water park. But then he turns out to have a bad Canadian accent. What a knee-slapper.
After the funeral, the whole gang goes to a lake house where the frivolity continues. You want a plot? You won't find it here. The shift in locations merely serves as an excuse for more humor of the cretinous kind.
Here are the alleged highlights: Rob gets an arrow in the foot, Wiley (Steve Buscemi) gets an arrow in the foot, Wiley crashes into a building, Eric crashes into a tree, Rob kicks Marcus in the groin (twice), Eric urinates while in a canoe, Eric urinates in a pool, people fall down a lot and people insult each other a lot. There's also a dog whose vocal cords have been snipped so that it sounds like a sick turkey.
In a movie loaded with brain-cringing material, the most painful has to be listening to Schneider singing "Ave Maria" at the funeral.
After spending 100 of its 103-minute running time being dim-witted, the film devotes its final three minutes moralizing as characters make "revealing" confessions. Is this supposed to make us care about them? If director Dennis Dugan, a frequent Sandler collaborator, had devoted a nanosecond to character development beforehand, perhaps. It's not a coincidence that Dugan also directed Lawrence in "National Security," a movie so completely wretched it almost makes "Grown Ups" look like "Bringing Up Baby."
Only a basketball scene featuring an adult sore-loser gets close to a real emotion.
"Grown Ups" avoids a failing grade for a few reasons. I did smile twice at two scenes -- and they can both be seen in the trailer.
What's especially disappointing about "Grown Ups" is all the talent it wastes. This cast is far too skilled -- with the inherently unfunny Schneider excluded -- to be in a film this lame. No one really acts. They simply behave as if they're in a standup routine. The film also serves as a woeful reunion of former "Saturday Night Live" cast members. One "Toonces" skit is funnier than this entire movie.
Sadly, "Grown Ups" will make a ton of money as the LCD flock is large and loyal, guaranteeing more moronic Sandler comedies. Too bad someone can't knock some sense into the actor. Where's Bob Barker when you really need him?
"Grown Ups," stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider. Rated PG-13 (crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity), 103 minutes. Directed by Dennis Dugan, this film opens Friday, June 25.