Adults (13+, 102 mins) Directed by Dennis Dugan *½
Not long after The Expendables unearthed ’80s action icons in 2010, Hollywood decided the next big thing should be a re-collection of ’90s comedy draws.
But whether this composition of the idiosyncratic quintet of Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and Kevin James was a laughing dream team, or a sure sign of the apocalypse, certainly depended on your tolerance for their “special brand” of humor .
In Grown Ups they play against the first five (actually the only five) of the 1978 won St Mark’s basketball team. Thirty years after their triumph, they reunite for the funeral of their inspirational coach Bobby “Buzzer” Ferdinando (Blake Clark) with plans to spend the weekend together at their old lakeside spot. The coach always told them to live as if they were playing their winning game, with no regrets. But it turns out that they are all not completely honest about their current lives.
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Sort of The Big Chill-meets-Now and Then, but with copious unnecessary boob and butt shots, Grown Ups doesn’t seem like much more than an excuse for Sandler to hang out with his mates for a few weeks.
Serial Sandler director Dugan (who barked orders at him in everything from the highs of Happy Gilmore to the lows of I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry) never manages to corral its comedians into anything resembling a story, just letting them bend down freely and shoot the wind.
Sandler and Spade’s regular writer Fred Wolf (Joe Dirt, Dickie Roberts) deliver a script that’s a horribly awkward mix of sexual innuendo and saccharine schmaltz (the latter aided by Rupert Gregson-Williams’ poky and viscous score). Running gags involve a windy granny, senior sex, a breastfeeding four-year-old and a barking dog, while mother-in-law jokes, ethnic jokes, fat jokes and even a (former NRL player) John Hopoate-inspired jape dominate.
Drama comes in the form of the now-over-40s lamenting their sex lives and despairing over their inept, video game-obsessed kids.
Now we all expect a certain amount of sexism in a Sandler movie, but in addition to showing a lot of female flesh, Grown Ups even conveys the message that a working woman is the devil, with both Salma Hayek (who looks awkward all the time) looks like) as Maya Rudolph guiltyly showed the error of their ways.
Characteristically, the boys narrowly escape one-dimensionality – James is a lardy lawn furniture salesman, Rock a house-husband they pick, Spade a sex-obsessed loner, and Schneider (surprisingly less annoying than usual) a Johnny Suede-cleansed snag. And once again Sandler defies all logic and all sense in the character he gives himself. Not only is Lenny married to Hayek’s fashion designer, he also turns out to be the laziest Hollywood cop ever!
Beneath the floundering predictable plot and lame (literally in one case) gags, there are a few highlights. Steve Buscemi delivers a great cameo, and there’s a nice eclectic mix of early ’80s music (everything from Rupert Hines to Hot Chocolate) on the soundtrack. But overall, Grown Ups elicits more moans than laughs.
Passing it once is bad enough how one Kiwi viewed it more than 330 times in 2017 is – to me – completely incomprehensible.
Grown Ups is now available to stream on Netflix.