A film review by Craig J. Koban June 30, 2010



2010, PG-13, 102 mins.


Lenny Feder: Adam Sandler / Eric Lamonsoff: Kevin James / Kurt McKenzie: Chris Rock / Marcus Higgins: David Spade / Rob Hilliard: Rob Schneider / Sally Lamonsoff: Maria Bello / Roxanne: Salma Hayek / Wiley: Steve Buscemi

Directed by Dennis Dugan / Written by Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf.

GROWN UPS – co-written and staring Adam Sandler - is not only unfunny, it’s antagonistically unfunny.  Very few films assault viewers with their feeble attempts at generating chuckles, but this one certainly deserves dishonorable mention.  GROWN UPS is a very ironic title: this is not a film for grown ups, but rather one made by a bunch of grown ups with infantile minds.  To call this a “family comedy” is both laughable (the film is advertised as such, but is rated “PG-13” for "crude material including suggestive references, language, innuendo, and nudity") and an insult to families…and comedies.   

However, GROWN UPS may just be the screen comedy for you if (and a big if) you like jokes and pratfalls involving, in random order: intoxication; public urination, both in lakes and pools; grotesque toe bunions; hairy, middle-aged bare asses; middle aged men staring at the asses of 20-year-old women; toupees flying in the wind; O.J. Simpson tattoos; animal feces dripping out of someone’s gapping mouth; multiple instances of breastfeeding a young boy that is definitely not a toddler; small animals being crushed by fat people; a man so horribly injured that he’s in a full body cast; people being kicked in the groin numerous times; old people talking and acting like sexual deviants; and lastly…farting point blank in the face of David Hasselhoff.  

Wait a tick…that last item...wrong flick…that was in Sandler’s CLICK.  My bad. 

The fact that this laugh-void dreck was penned by Sandler and directed by Dennis Dugan is of no surprise.  Sandler, as I have often pontificated, has never made  a comedy that I have liked: his resume is a stunning indignation of wretched, self-indulgent, laugh-free excess (recent ones, like his toxically unfunny and borderline offensive I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY were new low points).  Dugan, on the other hand, is a frequent collaborator with Sandler's wall of shame catalogue, directing him in CHUCK AND LARRY, HAPPY GILMORE, BID DADDY, and last year’s pathetic YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN.  Oh…and Dugan also helmed THE BENCHWARMERS, a comedy I loathed so much that, in my review, I notated that sitting through any minute of it would “make you break out into spontaneous depression and low self-worth.” 

Well…I certainly felt lowly and depressed after stomaching GROWN UPS.  Perhaps even more miserable is that this film is attempting – rather pathetically – to mix PG-13 raunch with a soft and wholesome sentimentality, and the results are teeth grating.  Like the film’s of the Judd Apatow canon, GROWN UPS is populated by one man-child after another that bumbles their way through the film.  The difference with Apatow's superlative comic efforts is that his films create real, flesh and blood personas with personalities; in GROWN UPS the actors just lazily play types (i.e. the drunk, the fat schlub, the emasculated househusband, the clueless vegan, etc.).  Attempts at adding some dimension to the personas in GROWN UPS is, ironically enough, the most unintentionally hilarious angle of the film.  Considering the sheer number of comic talent on board here, GROWN UPS emerges as a wretched failure: how could so many comedians come together to make a comedy that’s so irreproachably lacking in guffaws? 

The film plays like a Poor Man’s THE GREAT OUTDOORS:  In a very early flashback to the 70’s we meet five boys that were on the winning side of a championship basketball team.  They are Lenny (played as an adult by Sandler), Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (David Spade), and Rob (Rob Schneider).  We learn that, as boys, they won a very pivotal b-ball game, which helmed to cement their friendship that much further.  However, in the present, the team members learn of the sad death of beloved coach and now must pay their respects at his funeral, which, as presented in the film, is one punctuated by more laughs, inane gags and one-liners, and personal embarrassment than any funeral I have ever attended. 

The boys all have changed a lot since their athletic school days: Lenny is now a big Hollywood agent married to a trophy wife, Roxanne (Salma Hayek) and has three kids that are so spoiled that you want to slap some sense into them.  Eric has no job, but he has a loving wife Sally (Mario Bello) that has some very, very odd beliefs when it comes to breastfeeding.  Kurt is a homemaker to his career-working and minded wife, Deane (Maya Rudolph).  Marcus is apparently an unemployed loser that likes to drink and screw anything that movies.  Rob has a scandalously weird attraction to much, much older women: his wife is Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), a woman that is well past mandatory retirement age and, in many a scene, shows her willingness to play tongue wars with her younger hubby.  Gags involving the younger Schneider and elderly Patten getting it on – in public and in private – are never once amusing. 

In order to grieve and deal with their respective loss, the men all decide to take their families on a trip to a lake house where, 30 years before, they celebrated their championship game.  They also, at their coach’s last request, go to the lake so they can spread his ashes…and apparently made a nauseatingly obvious product placement shot for KFC.  Preceding and accompanying this scene are endless moments of perfunctory melodrama and dumb, lackluster slapstick antics.  Lenny tries to charm his X-Box and Blackberry addicted kids to love the spirit of the outdoors.  Eric tries to mask his own insecurities about his recent job loss (and tries to find a way to get his 4-year-old…make that 48-month-old – kid to stop begging for mommy’s boob juice).  Rob tries to find a way to gain some acceptance from his puzzled friends about his choice in spouses, not to mention fending off the frothing-at-the-mouth, lust-filled attention that his buddies pay to his two super model gorgeous daughters.  Mixed in with all of these horrible attempts to infuse GROWN UPS with a tender and sweet core are moments very familiar to the Sander school of risqué, childish, humiliation comedy: instances involving poop, pee, farting, and so on.  Hell, they even throw in a cute doggie that has had its vocal cords removed and now sounds like a canine throat cancer victim. 

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! 

Sarcasm aside, if I am forced to give modest props to the film then I will say this: there are a few jokes that are giggle-inducing: I liked a late, racially charged standoff between Tim Meadows and Chris Rock on a basketball court and I also liked Rock playing the hyper sensitive side of his homemaker character.  Maya Rudolph (so assured and so rock solid in AWAY WE GO) gets a few laughs at the expense of her pregnancy.  There’s a nice visual gag showing Sandler’s incredulous kids trying to find out what the big, boxy picture tube TV is (they were born into a life of privilege and flat screens).  Finally, the camaraderie between all of these former SNL and sitcom vets feels palpable and genuine.  They all look like they had fun making this movie.

But…Jesus H…this film does nothing to properly harness these funnymen.  Spade is a one-note bore as his drunk and horny swinger.  Schneider also phones in his role to eye-rolling levels.  James (thanklessly decent in the DIE HARD parody, PAUL BLART) is a kind and jolly presence, which is no stretch.  Rock, who is stomach-achingly hilarious doing stand-up, looks essentially bored here.  Sandler fares no better in a part that strains credibility (at one point he’s a venomous, Ari Gold-esque movie agent, then a calm, comforting, and soft-spoken family man…uh..yeah…not buying).  And the poor female stars here…oy vey.  Salma Heyek has recently been so spunky and sly playing broad comedy on TV’s 30 ROCK, but here she seems utterly out of her element.  And poor Maria Bello…she seems like a high pedigree actress that has truly lowered her standards to essentially play most of her scenes partially disrobed and feeding her younger co-star that plays her milk-obsessed child.  Then there is the character of the obligatory old and senile black grandmother that likes to sit on porches, fart, and knit.  When are racial stereotypes ever funny? 

Finally, two scenes need to be mentioned in closing, because they nearly made me vomit.  The first is a would-be tear-inducing moment where Lenny’s young daughter crashes his family Mercedes into his backyard…because she was trying to use its GPS system to find the dead coach…in heaven.  The second, and even more condescending and phony moment involves a final, big game pitting Lenny and his friends playing against their old school-time adversaries, which concludes on a sanctimoniously false ending where Lenny “teaches” everyone a moral and ethical lesson on what really matters most in life.  If that moment does not incite one’s gag reflex, then I don’t know what will.  The way Sandler self-aggrandizingly puts his character up on a high alter of moral righteousness at the end is a hard pill to swallow….much like the rest of this silly, lethargic, witless, and unendurable mess.  


I have always prided myself on having a sense of humor, but there is one joke in the film at the expense of my home Canadian province that made me cry foul.  

There is a sculpted and perfectly bronzed lifeguard that becomes the object of desire for all of the wives during one trip to a water park.  When he does approach the ladies he reveals that he is from “up north” and from the province of “Saskatcha-toon.”  His Canadian dialect sounds…I dunno…like a ditsy, gay Brazilian mixed with someone talking while high on helium.  So…the makers here think that all people from my home province sound like this.  Okay.  Fine.  That type of ignorance does not bother me that much, but when you want to mock a culture and geographical area, get the goddamn name right!!  It’s Saskatchewan, not Saskatcha-toon, for Christ’s sake.  

I hate lazy and uneducated verbal jokes.

  H O M E