The comedy juggernaut that is Adam Sandler’s career carries on with his latest hit about a reunion of five childhood friends over a July 4th weekend. Drawn together by the death of their old basketball coach, the five fully grown men reconvene at a lake house where they spent their childhood summers with their respective broads in tow.
And really that’s about it – the film isn’t so much written or directed but rather unfolds with a wearying inevitability. Rather than bother with any sort of plot (other than the rather pathetic central conceit that these middle aged men are still obsessively hanging on to a basketball victory that happened more than 30 years ago), character detail, or even much in the way of comedic set-pieces, instead the characters sit around making jokes about each other, which although not particularly funny seem to amuse everybody on screen to no end and wherever possible objects and substances are inserted into or released from bodies for supposedly comic effect.
The advantage (if it can be called that) of such lazy filmmaking is that the film doesn’t offer any nasty surprises to those people who may like this sort of thing. With the leads essentially playing themselves, or at least the selves we’ve seen them play before – Sandler is once again the slightly neurotic alpha male of the group, David Spade is sleazy, Kevin James is, well, fat, and Rob Schneider is just plain weird – fans will know what to expect before they go in. This does mean that the film is saved from being a complete bore thanks to Chris Rock who delivers the incredibly poor material with the energy and conviction of his stand-up act, and Steve Buscemi, who can always be relied on to turn in an amusingly odd cameo, but considering the obnoxious presence of the rest of the male cast this really isn’t enough.
The women in Grown Ups aren’t even given the opportunity to be obnoxious as unsurprisingly the film treats its female characters with a sense of disdain. True, the women here may not be the usual shrews as wives in blokey comedies generally are, but rather they are seen as either something to be ogled, ignored or, if they’re particularly old or unattractive, repulsed by (as demonstrated with a depressingly predictable subplot featuring Schneider’s daughters). So extraneous are the women to the plot of the film that when it’s revealed that Sandler has potentially damaged his wife’s career by making decisions behind her back, the writers don’t even bother to resolve this plot point, merely ignoring it so she can be back at the end cheering on him and the rest of his man-child gang.
Smug, lazy, repellent and oddly (considering his success with American audiences) quite patronising towards middle America, in a just world Grown Ups would mark the end of Sandler’s brand of uninspired gross-out comedy, but sadly with it making over $150 million in the US alone, it looks like there’ll be plenty more of this to come.