Excuse me, Mr. Galifianakis – may I borrow this for a moment? Thank you so much…
Adam Sandler is portrayed like a fat Jesus in a lot of his Happy Madison produced films, and Grown Ups is no exception. Nobody gets the last word over Fat Jesus when it comes time for friends to rip on each other, or if someone else does, it has to be funny enough to send Fat Jesus into (badly faked) knee-slapping convulsions of laughter. Nobody trumps Fat Jesus at amazingly acrobatic dives into swimming pools off of lawsuit-waiting-to-happen water-park ripcords – not even his own son! Nobody gets the game-winning three-point shot, the chance to deliver the most heartfelt eulogy, the prominent career in Hollywood, or the smoking hot trophy-wife (Salma Hayek Pinault) with her own fashion line unless it’s Fat Jesus.
While this lazy idea of a hero is one of many samples as to why Grown Ups is quite irritating, it’s also one of many staples we’ve come to expect from these dunderhead flicks. Others that exist here: Rob Schneider playing the most pitiful loser (this time, an uber-vegan with a sickly appearance, a toupee that flaps in the breeze, and a much older and very frisky wife. Way-ohhh!). Steve Buscemi making a cameo with a ludicrous physical handicap. Characters falling into two-dimensional stereotypes. Characters loudly farting, getting peed on, getting sprayed with breast milk, mistaking an animal for a woman while asleep, and who are supremely oblivious to the bluntest mocking and/or slams. But not Fat Jesus, who is, in fact, too school for cool and therefore administers said slams.
But let’s not forget the attempt at heart either. The overall message, which somehow became far more important than having an enticing plot this time around, is to enjoy the simple details of life like the great outdoors or… the great outdoors or… the steam of a car engine blasting a curvy blonde in her early-20’s while she immensely enjoys it… or the great outdoors! Perhaps the message overlaps the plot because the plot is so awkward to begin with. Five guys who together made a winning basketball team as children meet again, with their wives and children, in New England to pay respects at the funeral of their coach. And since he died so close to the Fourth of July, why not get the morose feelings out of the way and rent the giant lakeside cabin they often shared again?
The film tries to stress the oddness of change with each guy, so similar to each other as kids, becoming a different person with such different tastes, opinions, etc., but, at the same time, also stresses that, despite their differences, they can form a very tight mass bond of comradery. The tactic used to make this schmaltzy premise easier to swallow is to set up, amidst the hiking and lake-fun, several uncomfortably hurtful moments that lead nowhere. For example, I’m still wondering: Why the cut to Kevin James’ saddened reaction after Fat Jesus retaliates a sucker-punch joke at him, in front of a crowd, that attacks his weight when the seemingly deep cut (judging by James’ acting) is never confronted after? So uneven!
Colin Quinn appears as an antagonist in what I presume is a writers’ afterthought for a way to end the story. He grouchily challenges Fat Jesus to a rematch of the old basketball game – his balding, fat posse against him and his disciples. Time and adulthood have presumably been hard on this guy, with his sweaty restaurant-kitchen job and his very-much-not-Salma-Hayek wife, so Fat Jesus does the UNTHINKABLE and secretly lets him win the game so both parties can feel good about themselves (and don’t worry, drunk and/or stoned audience patrons – he spells it out for you afterward in case that flew by you).
Unlike some other critics I’ve read, I didn’t expect to be washed over with comedic genius by this for-the-most-part early-90’s “Saturday Night Live” cast reunion (Along with Sandler, Schneider, Quinn, and the non-”SNL“-affiliated James are an alcohol-loving David Spade and an underused house-hubby Chris Rock. Alums Maya Rudolph and Tim Meadows show up too). These lowered expectations come from remembering the critical beatdowns they endured while still on the show. There are a few juvenile chuckles that were refreshing after I had just watched a considerable compromise of comic artistry from Kevin Smith with Cop Out. Unlike Smith, these boys stayed true to form with both hits and misses, but with the misses still greatly outweighing the hits, it makes one thankful that Chris Farley (who loathed doing fat-based humor) wasn’t around for this concoction of astray slapstick bits.
Grown Ups mostly seems like a movie intended to be rated PG and for families with pre-teen children, especially remembering Sandler’s talk show rounds at the time, pushing the news that most of the lead actors of the film are fathers now. The MPAA slapped it with a PG-13 which – just a couple of shots in the dark here – probably had something to do with Spade’s naked butt, a little to do with the after-hours grouped imbibing, and a lot to do with Maria Bello’s breast-feeding a four-year-old son (For the record, this really does happen with some families – I have recently, years before this film, been in the vicinity of such weirdness). Had some of the subject matter been toned down, this could have been a tolerable all-ages flick on the level with Meatballs, but I suppose, with Fat Jesus headlining, it has to be hip and risque enough to sneak into without paying.
Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I were “chocolate wasted.” Anyone know how to do that? Or what that even means? Is Kahlua involved?
1.5 out of 5 stars.