REVIEW: Dull, Unfunny Grown Ups Pees in the Summer Movie Pool
The perhaps intentional irony of Grown Ups is that it doesn't appear to have been made by -- or even for -- actual grown-ups. Maybe that's supposed to be part of its charm. A riff on the idea that boys will always be boys, no matter how old they get, Grown Ups brings together five middle-aged characters who have no idea how they ever got out of short pants, though in reality, they haven't gotten out of short pants at all: They wander through the movie in those boyish baggy shorts that hang to the knee, unable to commit to being actual trousers.
You could forgive these poor schmoes for their sartorial choices: The movie is set in summertime, and the guys are on a holiday of sorts at a New England lake house. But it's harder to forgive them, or the movie, for its complete shapelessness, its relentless self-congratulatory back-slapping, its refusal to give its women characters anything remotely interesting or amusing to do. Grown Ups (which was directed by Dennis Dugan and written by Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf) isn't just unfunny; it's so dull that it actually makes putting on an ironed shirt, communicating openly with your spouse and clocking in dutifully at a tedious 9-to-6 job -- in other words, doing the stuff most grown-ups have to do -- look like fun.
There's no plot to speak of in Grown Ups, just a setup: Five childhood pals reunite to mourn the loss of their old basketball coach, the guy supposedly responsible for helping them over that crucial boyz-2-men hurdle. They were mismatched as kids, and adulthood has further exaggerated their individual quirks: Adam Sandler's character is a hyper-successful Hollywood agent with bratty, spoiled kids and an ice-queen fashion-designer wife (Salma Hayek). Kevin James is a not-so-successful lawn furniture salesman (he's married to Maria Bello, who sports the long, French-manicured nails and curling-iron ringlets of the stereotypical middle-American, middle-class spouse). Chris Rock is a beleaguered Mr. Mom type who tends the homefront while his wife (Maya Rudolph) goes off to work. Rob Schneider is a supersensitive, green-tea-drinking, vegan treehugger who just can't keep from French-kissing his much-older wife (Joyce Van Patten) in front of the other guys, who are grossed out by, you know, her wrinkles. And David Spade is a maladjusted layabout who doesn't appear to have ever had a job, a haircut, or even a shave.
Adulthood has disappointed these guys in myriad ways: Rock's wife and kids do nothing but complain about his cooking; Sandler's kids text their Asian nanny whenever they want a cup of hot cocoa; Schneider has had several marriages and has lost touch with his numerous children (though they show up in the movie, eventually, as hot teenagers in short shorts, thus giving this group of frustrated middle-agers even more things to feel guilty or anxious about); and even though James seems to have an OK relationship with his wife, she is still breast-feeding the couple's four-year-old son. Over and over again (this is a joke the movie milks way past its sell-by date), he gazes with envy and longing as Little Lord Fauntleroy affixes his mouth to his mother's nipple.
The guys sit around in lawn chairs -- sometimes they muster enough energy to move to the porch -- to kvetch about their lives and laugh at one another's jokes. And that's pretty much all that happens in Grown Ups, aside from a sort-of action sequence that takes place at a water park (don't look now, but Kevin James is peeing -- in the pool!) and another unfunny bit in which Schneider's foot is pierced with an arrow after the guys re-create a dumb childhood game. Grown Ups is sort of a comedian's bake-off, in which five comics with varying degrees of talent trade wise-cracks and laugh appreciatively at each other whether those gags are funny or not.
It's nice that they're so supportive of one another; too bad the whole exercise is so tedious for us. Referring to the preschool breast-feeder, one of the guys quips, "He's going to get a milk mustache on his real mustache -- that's not going to look right!" The others break up at this and other, similar laff-riots. Sandler does pull off a few funny bits (like nonchalantly cooking some bacon outdoors on the bug zapper, after Rob Schneider has banished him and his cured-animal-product from the kitchen). And oddly enough, Sandler is pretty charming when he's laughing at other people's jokes -- he makes it seem more like true camaraderie than one-upmanship. But there just isn't much that's worth laughing at in Grown Ups. When Chris Rock's disapproving, oversized mother-in-law (Ebony Jo-Ann) starts farting up a storm, you know the movie's getting desperate for yuks. A well-timed fart joke is one of the great, low pleasures of moviegoing. But you can't power a whole movie with them, unless your aim is to really stink up the joint.