Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sandler and Co. aren't "Grown Ups" yet but it's better than you'd expect

Grown Ups (2010) 
102 min., rated PG-13.

By now, we would expect Adam Sandler to be making grown-up movies, judging by the title of his new vehicle, "Grown Ups." But who are we kidding—men will be boys. Directed by “kick-in-the-groin” king of comedy Dennis Dugan, Sandler now gets to hang out with his crew of comedian pals, as if there were making a reality show. This is their "The Big Chill"/"Indian Summer"/"The Great Outdoors," and it's not as bad as you've heard, at least by the standards of a Happy Madison production. 

Five schmoes in their early 40s reunite at a lake house after the funeral of their beloved elementary-school basketball coach. Sandler plays Lenny (as if character names mattered), the Hollywood agent with a high-maintenance wife (Salma Hayek) and three spoiled, technology-reliant kiddos. Kevin James is the jolly big guy, Eric, with a wife (Maria Bello) who still breast-feeds their 4-year-old son. Chris Rock is Kurt, a house-husband with a pregnant wife (Maya Rudolph) and a ball-busting mother-in-law. David Spade is a drunken, uncommitted single dude named Marcus. And, finally, Rob Schneider is, well, Rob, who's married to a vegan hippie old enough to be his mom with three daughters, two gorgeous model-types in shorty shorts and the third as dumpy as daddy. 

A silly, sloppy comedy wouldn't be right without some silliness and sloppiness: "Grown Ups" has more painful, juvenile slapstick than it needs, the token lowest-common-denominator gross-outs (bunions, farting, face-diving in poop, arrow through the foot, and peeing in the pool), and clunky lessons-learned sentiment complete with The Big Game Versus Childhood Rivals. Also, if you like summer movie vacations (after the trip to Abu Dhabi in "Sex and the City 2"), this movie takes us to a water park! And what's with all the distracting product placement (Dasani! Dunkin' Donuts! Coke!)? But hey, no one's perfect. 

These buds are funnier and more relaxed together than in some of their dumber, spottier individual projects, and no wonder since they're all real-life friends. Sandler (loosely) co-wrote the script with Fred Wolf, but there must've been quite a bit of improv going on because they even laugh on camera as if Dugan just kept the cameras rolling. Of the thankless spouse roles, Rudolph shows the most comic timing and is a real sport when she gets a squirt of milk in the face from Bello's teet. And there are cameos from Tim Meadows, Norm MacDonald, and Steve Buscemi, his being the best. 

Hardly an endorsement, this Happy Meal of a movie is surprisingly more enjoyable than not and moves fast from joke to joke (it's mostly a threadbare plot of start-stop comic set pieces anyway, right?). Clever? Not for a second, but it's casual and amiable rather than offensive or too mean-spirited. "Grown Ups" gives fans of these funny guys' fans what they want, and that just might be enough.

Grade: C +

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