Guess Which Piece of Crap Armond White Called a 'Humanist Work of Art'?
NY Press critic Armond White and I have had our differences but not strictly due to his unfailing contrarian streak. The man who last week vilified the roundly beloved Toy Story 3 has this week managed to join the 8 percent of critics willing to stand behind Grown Ups -- a film that hangs its hat on the attenuation of fart jokes, peeing in pools and 4-year-olds breastfeeding. But! It's not that he doesn't get it. The "humanist" joke is on you, dear reader -- all the way down to the Mike Leigh and Jean Renoir comparisons. Seriously.
I'm loath to call Armond or any critic "wrong" in any context, but, well, this certainly doesn't sound right:
It's inspiring to see Adam Sandler bounce back from last year's Judd Apatow catastrophe Funny People with the cheerful and surprisingly heartfelt Grown Ups. Instead of inflating a self-congratulatory stand-up comic's convention, Grown Ups offers a reunion of 1970s junior high school basketball teammates (Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock) and shows how they struggle to achieve maturity--even as adult males vacationing with wives and children. It's as if Sandler realized what was so false and ineffective about Funny People: the coddling sarcasm, ethnic self-pampering and egotism presented as an enviable part of L.A. comics' privileged lifestyles. [...]
Sandler's reckless comedy pokes fun at his clique's immaturity. He doesn't pretend to create character studies; rather, he satirizes their common silliness as they revisit adolescent pranks and attitudes. One ploy of Sandler and Fred Wolf's screenplay is to democratize humor--spread affectionate derision all around--by repeating jokes that grow into an appreciation of our full humanity. Note the wet T-shirt ogling that goes from a nubile chick to a middle-aged hausfrau, or the sustained swimsuit-wedgie routine ("That was a man's ass?"). These jokes prove that Sandler isn't class-climbing or youth-pandering like Apatow but affectionately examines the fundamental insecurities of middle-age. [...]
Director Dennis Dugan shows such actorly, egalitarian rapport that Grown Ups surpasses the recent French film The Father of My Children. Grown Ups has a natural, spontaneous sense of how friends of shared sensibility grow apart yet stay instinctively intact. The mocking personalities are never guileful; the insistence on friendship resembles Leigh's insight and Renoir's grace but crossed with stand-up comic candor. Sandler's wardrobe of collegiate T-shirts humorously reveals the missed opportunities Feder never confesses: Grown Ups is nicely subtle about mid-life regret and lifelong promise. Unassuming as it is, Grown Ups' best moments suggest a humanist work of art.
I repeat: "[T]he insistence on friendship resembles Leigh's insight and Renoir's grace." Good thing everybody else left plenty of room on the poster for a blurb, because that is the greatest ever. Don't change, Armond.
· Renoir Lite-Hearted [NY Press]