Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Time: 102 minutes
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider.
Among other things, the comedy “Grown Ups” imparts upon its audience a few pearls of wisdom about outdoor activities that anybody can use.
One: You can only eat so many candy bars before you’re too fat to water ski. Two: Young or old, everybody pees in the pool at one point or another. Three: You can cook bacon on a bug zapper, but you need to watch out for dead moths.
And, four: A game called “Arrow Roulette” is always a bad idea.
Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler) has just received an upsetting piece of news — his childhood basketball coach (Blake Clark) has passed on. Although most people might not be affected by the death of someone they’ve barely seen for 30 years, Lenny attributes much of his life’s success to his former mentor’s guidance.
On the plus side, attending the funeral gives him the chance to finally get back in touch with his old teammates: accident-prone Eric (Kevin James), weary househusband Kurt (Chris Rock), man-child Marcus (David Spade), and sensitive guy Rob (Rob Schneider).
With their respective families in tow, Lenny and pals head for the cabin where they spent their summers, and, although a few things have changed since they were 12, the quintet has no problem getting back to the state of mind they were in decades ago, focusing on nothing but good times and getting back to basics.
Considering Sandler co-wrote the screenplay, it’s no wonder he gave himself the meatiest role, with Lenny, a top Hollywood agent, going through a mild mid-life crisis, having trouble relating to his fashion designer wife (Salma Hayek) and realizing his privileged kids (Jake Goldberg, Cameron Boyce, Alexys Nycole Sanchez) are full-fledged couch potatoes with no sense of responsibility.
James gains the most sympathy as Eric, whether he’s crashing into a tree in an inadvertent “George of the Jungle” impression or getting caught with his pants down in a canoe.
As his overly friendly wife, Maria Bello, garners a few winces as she insists on breast-feeding the couple’s 48-month-old (Frank and Morgan Gingerich) child. In case you didn’t want to do the math, yes, the kid is 4.
Rock is in fine form, though underused, as stay-at-home dad Kurt, the victim of a constant stream of verbal abuse from his cantankerous mother-in-law (Ebony Jo-Ann) despite his devotion to his pregnant wife (Maya Rudolph). Spade and Schneider have a good amount of give and take as complete opposites Marcus and Rob, with the former, a serial bachelor, constantly haranguing the latter, a thrice-divorced New Age fanatic with a much-older new bride (Joyce Van Patten).
It doesn’t help that Marcus also constantly ogles Rob’s unusually gorgeous teenage daughters (Madison Riley, Jamie Chung), but hey, we’re all friends here, right?
Besides reuniting Sandler, Rock, Spade and Schneider, the power team of “Saturday Night Live” in the early 1990s — if Chris Farley were still alive today, he likely would have filled the fifth slot, but James works fine as the obligatory fat guy — the movie really feels like a gathering of old friends meeting and new friendships being made as the adults and kids start to bond through activities such as nursing an injured bird back to health or creating a telephone network of paper cups and strings.
There’s not so much a story as a day-by-day series of comedic events set during the Independence Day weekend, but if you’re a devotee of films from Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison, you’ll enjoy the bit parts by the ever-growing collection of troupe members. In this case, that means bringing back familiar faces like Tim Meadows, Jonathan Loughran and Steve Buscemi, who, led by Colin Quinn, face off against Lenny and his team in a basketball grudge match for the ages.
Don’t be too misled by the name of “Grown Ups.”
As if you needed to be told, the leads have no problem whatsoever playing men who barely made it past boyhood in terms of maturity.
But, beneath their trademark crudeness lies a good-hearted intent at the core of the movie that really shines through. It may have neither the uproarious summer laughs of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” nor the evocative feeling of “The Big Chill,” but if you take a little from Column A and a little from Column B, it works pretty well.