Review of Grown Ups

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Funny guys Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider portray middle-aged men who 30 years ago played together on a basketball team. Now, the five former teammates are holding a reunion at a lake house over the Fourth of July. Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph star as the wives of Sandler's, James' and Rock's characters.
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Movie Review: "Grown Ups"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: June 25, 2010
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Genre: Comedy

"Grown Ups" brings a group of old friends together to relive their earlier victories and discuss how each has developed over time. What might seem like a lighthearted school reunion-type film never quite reaches the apparent heights the film promised.

Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler), Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James), Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock), Rob Hilliard (Rob Schneider) and Marcus Higgins (David Spade) get back together upon the death of their junior high basketball coach for a weekend of fun at a beach house. Remembering the coach's words to them, they vow to have as much fun now as they did back in the early days.

This comedy romp has potential, as names like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade often headline some of the funniest films out there but ultimately falls into mediocre territory because of poor jokes and far too many sight gags. Elementary humor dominates the film, with fart gags and slapstick making up most of the comedy in the movie, leaving little room for the comedic styling of these excellent actors.

All-out comedy is the hallmark of the film's stars, but the jokes often boil down to stereotypical jabs at height, weight or race. About a quarter of the way through, viewers may begin to realize that they're hearing variants of the same joke or witnessing a sight gag that matches an earlier joke. By the middle of the film, these jokes begin to become tiresome.

The film seems almost to reach its end midway when the movie's plot moves on from simply enjoying a night out at the beach house to a rematch against their junior high rivals. The rivals, led by Dickie Bailey (Colin Quinn), are simply an excuse to add more cameos into a movie already chock full of unnecessary nods to friends and coworkers of the cast. None of them adds anything to the film, but the character of Wiley (Steve Buscemi) provides yet another venue for a few slapstick jabs and puns.

Sandler and his usual crew of comedians make the film worth watching because of their ability to portray a diverse cast of individuals instead of complete cardboard cutouts, even if repetitive jokes and sight gags draw away from the overall humor. The many different children in the film seem to have been written in only to provide additional stereotyping and slapstick humor and do not distinguish themselves in any meaningful way.

The direction of the film does quite a bit with the material available. Scenes move quickly, and at no point does the film become weighted with drama or melancholy. Not even mentions of death and the spreading of ashes can slow the juggernaut as it gains speed toward its conclusion. The conclusion of the film is another saving grace. It allows viewers to see that some character development did occur between the one-liners and quips, even if it may have not been shown on camera.

The writing of the script itself seems to be one of its greatest flaws. The veteran comedians drop their lines with precision. It's easy to suspect that many of the film's best jokes were ad libbed by the actors. The plot itself is virtually nonexistent, unlike Sandler's more dramatic hits like "Billy Madison," and when it does emerge midstream, it has little effect on the overall tale.

The duration of the film is probably its biggest drawback. What may have made an interesting episode of a situation comedy or skit show fails to fill the entire 102 minutes and ultimately leads to frustration on the part of viewers. Luckily, many moviegoers are likely to simply dismiss slower periods without obvious gags as part of the narration and not notice the amount of filler material that neither adds to the comedy nor advances the plot.

Sandler, Rock and the other stars of the film provide the saving grace that keeps the film out of the lower ratings. Most fans know not to expect plot-heavy films featuring these veterans of the comedic circles. Few can portray sight gags as well as this crew. Combined with some excellent material inserted into the juvenile jabs and stereotypes, the movie begins to pull itself up and become an entertaining experience. Even if it runs a bit too long, there are enough genuinely funny elements to keep fans of simple comedy in their seats for the full duration.

"Grown Ups" might make for a fun night out for a group of old friends but isn't mature enough for serious grown-up fun.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars