I am a recent "convert" of Adam Sandler and Kevin James' humor. Originally, I couldn't stand their slapstick comedic takes, many of which I felt were stupid or insulting to women. After watching a few seasons of King of Queens, I warmed up to Kevin James. Adam Sandler was a little more difficult to like because many of his films were practically the same plot structures, which becomes boring and predictable. The movie that first caught my attention was 50 First Dates. To this day, I can watch that film again and again without getting bored. Since then, I have found diamonds in the rough with these two comedians, (Adam Sandler in Reign over Me and both Sandler and James in I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry).
Grown Ups is not of the same caliber as the films I previously mentioned, but it's still a fun movie experience for fans of the genre. First, it has a stellar comedic cast which includes Adam Sandler (Lenny Feder), Kevin James (Eric Lamonsoff), Chris Rock (Kurt McKenzie), David Spade (Marcus "Higgy" Higgins), and Rob Schneider (Rob Hillard). In fact, many of the actors in the film previously made appearances or began their comedy careers on Saturday Night Live (SNL), so Grown Ups feels like one giant reunion movie. What makes the film fun for us ladies is that the female actresses can hold their own against such comedy giants. Selma Hayek (Roxanne Chase-Feder), Maria Bello (Sally Lamonsoff), Maya Rudolph (Deanne McKenzie), and Gloria (Joyce Van Patten) are truly an all-star female cast that balances the antics of the men without downplaying their own humorous scenes.
The story is nothing unique. In 1978, a group of five boys lose touch after winning a championship basketball game despite the wise words of Coach "Buzzer" (Blake Clark) to live their lives the same way they played that game. A tragic event brings the old friends back together after thirty years of separation to celebrate the week of Fourth of July together. It is through the antics of that week that they realize life is not about winning or losing but how they play the game.
Critics have complained that the film is predictable and the morals and lessons are forced. I both agree and disagree. Just because a film is predictable doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable, as demonstrated by James Cameron's film Avatar. Part of the key to enjoying films like these is to go into the theaters without expecting too much. Instead, it's about sitting back, relaxing, and just enjoying the thrill of the outing. In this case, that was very easy to do. As I watched the film, I was laughing nonstop, even when some of the jokes were predictable or ruined by earlier trailers. In fact, sometimes I was laughing purely because of the strange situations that the characters were constantly being placed in. I couldn't tell if the event was funny, weird, or just plain gross. Regardless, I was still cracking up with laughter, which means Grown Ups was achieving its goal--to make the audience laugh. In fact, the entire theater was cracking up throughout the movie, again, another sign that something was right with the film.
As far as the jokes and situations go, some were really odd and disconcerting. They bordered on not being funny for me purely because they were just too "out there." For example, there is the running gag of Maria Bello (Sally Lamonsoff) breast-feeding her son despite the fact that the boy is four years old. That was a bit too strange for my tastes. Another joke was about Rob Schneider (Rob Hillard) liking older women; his wife Gloria is old enough to be his grandmother! I found myself thinking that I was glad these weren't my families or kids. As the movie progressed, though, I found myself admiring these characters for the very oddities and quirks that at first seemed terribly unusual and unrealistic. After the film was over, I spoke with another viewer about how some women do breastfeed their babies until they're as old as five years (talk about overkill!). So, there really are people as strange as those presented in Grown Ups.
A large part of how I accepted the movie had to do with my mindset. Once I relaxed and stopped trying to make sense of it all, I began to enjoy the extremely freakish situations, such as the two hot daughters of Rob Hillard and the one disturbingly ugly daughter: Madison Riley (Jasmine Hilliard), Jamie Chung (Amber Hilliard), and Ashley Loren (Bridget Hilliard). Some of the less strange jokes became funnier too, such as the constantly farting grandmother.
I know I have already given away a lot of jokes, and I don't want to ruin the movie for those who have not seen Grown Ups yet. I do want to stress, though, that my favorite jokes all occurred at the water park. There was one funny scene with the women lounging around on the deck and an equally funny scene with the men floating around in the kiddie pool. This was a comedic high point next to the games the "men" play at the house they are renting. All in all, I was highly entertained.
As far as the acting and directing goes, there was nothing that stood out. The actors did a fantastic job playing their specific characters, but I was a little disappointed that Kevin James wasn't given funnier jokes or opportunities in the film. Because the film was produced by Sandler's company Happy Madison Productions, it felt as if his role and jokes had to overshadow everyone else's (even though I think Kevin James is a more talented comedian). I was surprised that Selma Hayek fit so well with this group too since I would never have pictured her starring in such a film. She looked good in every outfit she wore and was the hottest woman in the movie.
One thing that kept standing out to me about this film were the themes. There were the more obvious ones: children enjoying their childhood and adults living their lives with no regrets (which was often equivalent to living like children). Other themes included learning to lose in life and loving and respecting your spouse despite the times when you are angry and want to yell and call them silly names. The theme that stood out the most was having a role model/father type figure who you admired and what it truly means to loose that person with death. It felt like a more important theme than just the initial setup for the story. My hunches were correct when at the end of the film Adam Sandler started singing a song called "Stan the Man." Basically, it was a song about Sandler's father, who I believe the character of Coach "Buzzer" was based on. Even though I haven't been a fan of Adam Sandler's movies, I've always appreciated his musical talents. True, he's not the best singer, yet I always find his lyrics engaging. "Stan the Man" was not disappointing. It had just the right amount of sentimentality and humor, and it's worth sitting through all the credits to listen to (it's the last credit song).
The other music in the film was nothing to rave over. Most of it was very retro, but it fit with the overall themes and lessons. Some of the more popular artists included AC/DC, Aerosmith, Journey, Eddie Money, and Paul McCartney. Of course there was a Fleetwood Mac song too, "Monday Morning." Personally, I enjoyed the music, but I'm not sure a younger crowd would have been as impressed.
In the end, it's important to realize that Grown Ups isn't one of Sandler's top films. It is neither wholly comedic nor serious. It walks in "shades of gray" that actually turned out to be a detriment to the overall acceptance of the film by the general public. When going to see a movie, most people want the extremes; that's what makes the entire movie-going experience worthwhile.
Despite the low ratings, the film is worth seeing because it is a feel good pseudo-comedy with life lessons mixed in (just for the fun of it). If you can relax, you will laugh your socks off like I did. If you're determined to find fault, you will be missing out on a truly fun and real comedy. Come on...you know people and families just like the ones presented in this film! It's this level of ridiculousness and diversity that makes life so absurdly funny. Plus, it's been a while since Sandler has regaled the public with a new song. It was the final message and credit song that pushed Grown Ups into a slightly higher rating than I had initially anticipated.
What did you think of this review?