Tuesday, 6 August 2013

From the archive: "Grown Ups"

While giving the impression of admirable industry, Adam Sandler has in fact managed to contrive a nice series of paying holidays for himself - not bad going for a dumb kid from Jersey. The recent Just Go With It got him to the sort of sunkissed beach resort where comedy generally crashes and burns (the stakes are always too low when everybody's getting themselves a tan); released barely six months earlier, the let's-get-the-gang-back-together effort Grown Ups winds up at a sylvan lakeside setting to no greater comic effect. 

A quintet of fortysomething males (Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider), who've lapsed into, variously, parenthood, middle-aged spread, whipped househusbandry and sleazy tailchasing, are reunited by the passing of their childhood basketball coach, and inspired to take a week away at a log-cabin retreat with their wives, children and employees. The prominence accorded to the coach's motto ("play the game like life: right up to the buzzer") suggests easy sentiment is never going to be too far away, and - yes - a handful of life lessons will indeed be handed out on a jetty late on.

For the most part, however, Grown Ups is bafflingly pointless and plotless: we spend much of it watching the cast having themselves tremendous fun splashing around a waterpark - a sight that would almost certainly be more fun for us if we weren't the ones paying for it, both with our time and our money, and if these events didn't just appear a pretext for five schlubby guys to recreate their glory days as sporting heroes, thus pandering to all those Doritos-chowing schlubs in the audience whose glory days possibly never happened at all. 

It became a huge hit - most inexplicably on this side of the Atlantic, where the likes of James and Spade could barely be trusted to open a door, let alone a movie - which suggests either an untapped reservoir of affection for those cheap, Summer Rental-like comedies of the 1980s, or (more likely) that multiplex standards have declined to the point where cinemagoers want nothing more than to hang out with a bunch of famous people for 100 or so minutes. Still, some company this is. Rock, that livewire stand-up, is almost incredibly unfunny here, which may be why he's shuffled offscreen for much of the second act; Spade and Schneider do PG-13 variants of their usual resistible-asshole routines; James is mostly here to splat face-first into trees.

There's absolutely nothing for the women - Salma Hayek's dragon lady, Maria Bello as a breast-feeding milk dispenser, Schneider's bikini-clad daughters - and precious few scenes that end in anything so recognisable as a punchline. Most head towards a communal shrug, director Dennis Dugan mumbling "cut", and everybody shambling onto the next one, slapping one another on the back as they go. I found it cheerier than Just Go With It, but not much more amusing: the highpoint's a farting grandmother who blames all her trumps on the dog.

(February 2011)

Grown Ups is available on DVD through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment UK. A sequel, Grown Ups 2, opens in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.

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