Watching Grown Ups is like being the new kid in school: You see a group of friends retelling stories while laughing at inside jokes and you desperately want to be a part of that camaraderie, or at least understand what the hell they’re laughing about. Similarly, the plot behind Grown Ups is rather sporadic, as if Adam Sandler and the cool kids—in this case, Saturday Night Live alums Kevin James, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock and David Spade—were hanging out off-set and would suddenly think of scenes to do. They’d laugh while filming them, but never seem to put much thought into how they would contribute to the rest of the picture.
And as contagious as it is to watch the famous fivesome crack jokes and pull pranks on each other, many times this out-of-place, jerky storytelling ends up killing the flow of the movie. And that, in turn, kills some of the laughs that writers Sandler and Fred Wolf tried to target. In fact, the whole point of this flick seems like a fantastic, paid vacation for our starting lineup.
Not all the jokes exchanged among the guys are incomprehensible, and when they hit them, they score. Yet there were too many times when it felt like a bad standup act: they’d constantly try to one-up each other, as guys do, but they would try too hard and end up leaving the audience out to dry. And Rock seemed a bit left out, too. He really wasn’t needed in this movie—not to mention he wasn’t funny—and Schneider was a little too serious for his wacky role. There’s an oxymoron for you. With all the powerhouse comedians enlisted for this movie, you’d think there’d be more belly laughs than enjoyable giggles.
The story follows bigwig Hollywood agent Lenny Feder (Sandler), his curvaceous fashion designer wife (Salma Hayek) and their spoiled-rotten kids. An unfortunate event brings our Saturday Night Live BFFs back together, with their families, to rehash some old memories and start some new ones. It’s basically a movie full of summertime festivities, including Fourth of July celebrations and an envious trip to a nearby water park.
However, the major highlight of the movie is its statement about kids and their environment. Sandler’s Feder manages to tear his kiddies away from the television and their handheld video games long enough to show them what dirt looks like. In one scene, his wife Roxanne (Hayek) teaches the kids how to skip a rock, which includes a surprisingly funny gag. The kids transform from texting on a cell phone to playing with a string phone. All the parents’ determination for their kids to discover the richness of the outdoors was entirely welcoming.
So admittedly, there are some touching moments in Grown Ups, and Sandler, James and Spade whip up some decent material to make sure moviegoers have a good time this summer. It’s nothing you’ll remember next week, but it’s enough to brighten your day and inspire you to fire up the grill, invite some good friends over and enjoy being grown ups.
Grown Ups (R) ★★★☆☆