There's a plodding familiarity to Grown Ups, the latest vehicle to drive out of the Adam Sandler/Happy Madison production facility. Sandler plays a 40-ish man who reunites with his childhood pals for the funeral of their grade-school basketball coach and, predictably, learns some sort of a lesson about the importance of family. Or at least that's what it seems to be about, since the movie's less what we generally refer to as a "story" as it is an excuse for a bunch of tired, aging comedians to stand around swapping lame insults in between poorly timed sight gags.
The five stars of the film -- Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider -- are reportedly good friends in real life. One would imagine that when they get together to play golf, or show off their new sports cars, or snort horse tranquilizers off naked supermodels, that they're probably pretty hilarious. Which makes this collection of overtired one-liners more sad than truly terrible, as the men swap jokes about James' weight, Schneider's elderly wife, and Spade's libido with an attitude of jaded ennui.
Sandler, who produced, plays the only character who isn't targeted by his friends' callous jabs. Sure, they call him "Hollywood" because he's a high-powered agent, but it's difficult to imagine that the insult really stings. (He's a wealthy agent, by the way, so that we won't question how someone like Sandler ends up married to Salma Hayek.) In the case of his pals, the men relate to each other primarily through personal mockery, which is supposed to indicate camaraderie. Or it may be to show us that they're all still 12-year-olds inside. As I said before, there's not a lot of substance to grab onto here.
Rock plays a stay-at-home dad, so the jokes are about his cooking and cleaning, and how very much he's like a woman because of this. His wife (Maya Rudolph) brings her mother along for the weekend; the mother-in-law has grotesque bunions, farts a lot, and belittles Rock's manhood. Schneider's a New Age-y vegan type, and he's married to a woman (Joyce Van Patten) in her 70's, which is funny because older women are disgusting. James is ridiculed for his weight, even though the actor himself isn't really especially fat anymore. And Spade plays the same horndog character he always does, and also proves that he's the one true master of comic timing in this group, because he manages to make a few of his lines chuckle-worthy.
All but Spade are, in the film, family men. The children aren't sketched with any depth, and what attempts there are to incorporate them into the story are stupid -- one early moment, meant to tug at the heart-strings, involves Sandler's young daughter using the car's GPS to try and find heaven, which is so mind-numbingly dumb that it seems more an indication that the kid needs to be placed in a special school. Sandler's two boys are spoiled and over-indulged, and Grown Ups would have you believe that all they need to turn into great kids is to get out of Beverly Hills and into the sunshine, rather than for Sandler to impose any actual parenting. James' four-year-old still nurses at his mom's teat, which is played for its creepiness factor and tidily resolved by James simply handing the boy a carton of milk. No one learns anything, really, nor does the audience care.
Naturally, the guys end up having a rematch with the five fellows they beat in the basketball game 30 years ago (remember that plot point?), who are played, in part, by Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows and Steve Buscemi. Wait ... Steve Buscemi? Isn't he, like, ten years older than the rest of these guys? That would have made him 22 in elementary school. What?
There are five or six genuine laughs to be found in Grown Ups -- not big laughs, mind you, but laughs nonetheless -- which isn't an especially good ratio for a 102-minute movie. This is usually the place in a review where one writes, "but at least the actors all looked like they had fun making it," except in this case they really don't. Everyone in Grown Ups looks like they showed up, hit their marks, said their lines, and collected a paycheck. There's no real joy here, just a product churned out to sell tickets, and one that's destined to be forgotten in a few months by anyone who bothers to see it.