Adam Sandler is a strange beast, having spent his entire career playing up his overgrown-child persona. Now, he claims to have grown up, if the title to his new film is to be believed. Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade spent a little time with Grown Ups and learned something about himself; he has overtaken Adam Sandler in maturity.
EXPECTATIONS: I haven't expected much of anything from an Adam Sandler comedy since that god-awful Mr. Deeds remake, which fails so badly at being funny that it's actually funny in spite of itself. Maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but crap like You Don't Mess with the Zohan is the opposite of comedy. It's a tragedy that people like Adam Sandler and David Spade, who were actually funny 20 years ago, now pollute our homes with non-comedies like The Benchwarmers. At any rate, it's been years since Sandler's impressed me in anything. Why start now?
REALITY: Now for as much complaining as I just did, I truly don't understand how Grown Ups managed to garner worse reviews than fucking Marmaduke. It's not nearly as much of an affront to your sense of humor as a dog farting in your face for 90 minutes. Here, you at least get actual jokes told by actual Saturday Night Live alumni. Granted, most of the jokes are pretty bad, but they fly by so quickly that when the occasional good joke hits, you wind up at least giggling five or six times, so it sorta evens itself out.
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Grown Ups stars Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and Chris Farl -- err, Kevin James as five childhood buddies reuniting for the funeral of their youth league basketball coach. After the funeral, the friends and their families spend the weekend at The Old Lake House, where the guys get to reconnect, the kids learn to have fun and the wives just kinda hang around. And then they ... So then what happens is ... Hmm. That's it, I guess. There's about five minutes of Colin Quinn (remember that name?) demanding a rematch because he's still bitter about losing the big basketball game way back when they were all 12. Otherwise, it's pretty much the five guys cracking jokes and having a good time and making us watch them have fun. Like Ocean's 11 without the charisma.
Help! I'm comically corpulent!I walked out of Grown Ups feeling very conflicted. On the one hand, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I got to stare at Salma Hayek for two hours and had a few laughs along the way. That's cool, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. On the other hand, the movie is little more than a very transparent SNL reunion special. Not only is the entire Happy Madison gang back working under one banner, but in doing so, the film employs the talents of no less than eight SNL alumni. Even Norm MacDonald took time out of his hectic, demanding schedule to shake his ass for the camera. One wonders how much effort actually went into putting this production together.
Rob Schneider probably called up Adam Sandler one day last year and said "I need some money. How about we make a movie," to which Sandler replied, "Nah, Let's go on vacation instead." A couple of phone calls later and the whole gang is up in the mountains, making a movie about David Spade calling Rob Schneider a fartbrain. Chris Rock makes fun of Kevin James for being fat, Adam Sandler cracks on Chris Rock about being the black guy, and nobody makes fun of Adam Sandler because Sandler pays the bills.
In theory, a movie starring nothing but SNL cast members isn't a bad thing. These people are professional comedians, so it would make sense that if you put five of them in a room together, they'd eventually come up with something funny. However, in the case of Grown Ups, Sandler and the gang really should have put their heads together a little longer. Instead of the well-honed comedy machine that these guys oughta be by now, we get a bunch of comedians firing ad-libbed one-liners and yo mama jokes at each other for nearly two solid hours. I wish I were exaggerating, but too many scenes involve someone doing something stupid and everyone else standing around trying to come up with the best zinger.
Have you ever been in a room full of improv comedians when they're not performing? Actually, they never stop performing; when they're not in front of an audience, the hits just keep on coming. A little known fact about improv comedians: They operate under the same principle as sharks. If they stop telling jokes, they die. Grown Ups feels like watching a bunch of joke-sharks constantly grasping for a better punchline. Chris Rock will make a pretty funny joke about how Kevin James looks like a manatee, then David Spade butts in with, "No, no, I got one..." And then nobody laughs. Repeat ad nauseum.
Sandler does what none of us would dare to and actually touches Rob Schneider.Now, I know what you must be thinking. "Wait a minute," you say to your computer screen, "Comedy is subjective! You probably don't think this movie is funny, but I certainly might." True, you might, but consider this: A comedy about people making fun of Rob Schneider ought to be like shooting fish in a barrel. There literally could not be an easier target than the "Makin' copieeeeees" guy. Judging from some of the idiotic stunts he pulls in the movie, he's practically begging to be torn apart. Unfortunately, none of these people are a very steady shot. If being grossed out at Rob Schneider getting it on with an old lady is your idea of comedy, then you're in luck, because they beat that horse about fifty times and then dump the head in Kevin James' bedsheets just for shits and giggles.
I don't want to belabor the point, though. Grown Ups has a few charms in its supporting cast. Steve Buscemi shows up looking like a frog wrapped in toilet paper for three minutes and earns every single laugh. The kids in the film are actually damn funny; some of them have better comic timing than even Adam Sandler. But I guess that isn't really too difficult when Sandler's whole game plan is to sit back, drink some beer and call David Spade a dirty mop.
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MINORITY REPORT: Remember when Adam Sandler starred in Punch Drunk Love and everyone thought it was the start of a new era? We all thought Sandler had brought his man-child persona to its absolute apex and was about to start a new wave of clever, heartfelt and genuinely funny films? That was eight years ago. Just think about that. -Ian "ProfessorClumsy" Maddison
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