Grown Ups sports an impressive cast of funnymen, which is why it's all the more disappointing when most of the humor falls flat and the movie degenerates into a incredibly predictable feel-good comedy. And for a movie called Grown Ups, it's surprisingly immature.
Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, and David Spade play five childhood buddies who get reunited when their grade school basketball coach (Blake Clark) passes away. As part of the mourning process, they head out to the lakeside cabin where they celebrated a big victory back in their youth. Along for the ride are their wives and children, with the exception of the single Marcus Higgins (David Spade). It's probably better this way. It's hard enough trying to imagine the ridiculous Space as a womanizer, let alone a man in a steady relationship.
At first, it's incredibly fun to watch these guys do their thing. We're not just casual observers, laughing at them. We're laughing with them as they're always laughing at themselves. As a whole, the group has great chemistry. Some click better than others, but it works overall. There's a scene early on where the oddball Rob (unsurprisingly Rob Schneider), who's a pacifist and a vegan that's into natural remedies and much, much older women, is singing Ave Marie at the coach's funeral. He's gliding about, caressing statues and incorporating a picture of the coach into his act. Lenny (Sandler) makes a bet with Kurt (Rock) that Rob will get down on one knee at some point during the song, which he does.
Watching the rest of the group try to hold back their laughter while their wives poke and prod them, before eventually giving in and laughing themselves, is really, really funny. We've all been in that situation, whether it be school or church or some other place where laughter is inappropriate. The thing about laughter is it's the most infectious when it's being suppressed. This was a great scene and set a wonderful tone for the movie, if only the movie would've kept it up.
Instead we're quickly relegated to that aforementioned observer role. The guys stop cracking jokes at some point and they all become buffoons, which leads to a lot of jokes that feel uninspired and don't elicit many laughs.
One of the key moments in the movie's downfall is when you find out that the members of the opposing basketball team that they conquered in their youth are there at the lake. The apparent leader, Dickie (Colin Quinn), challenges Lenny to a rematch, which Lenny shrugs off. We now know exactly how the movie is going to end.
Grown Ups started out as something special and ended up something bland. The heartfelt camaraderie degenerated into slaps and kicks and falls and more slaps, which is rarely funny, especially when we've seen it so many times. And then at the end we get the obligatory "everything is going to be alright" speech, and yet there never seemed to be any danger of things not working out. Perhaps the speech was directed at the audience, informing them that Grown Up was, in the end, a good movie. It's not.
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