Earlier this year, we watched Columbia/Sony’s marketing department go absolutely crazy with their push for audiences to see Grown Ups, a comedy starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, and Rob Schneider. Apparently, that push worked: Grown Ups earned well over $160m at the box office, a figure that’s truly astounding. Having avoided the film like the Red Death when it was in theaters over the summer, I was curious when Collider’s overlords handed me a copy of the Blu-ray for review: Would Grown Ups be as bad as I was expecting it to be, or were those $160m worth of people right all along? Read on for the full review after the jump…
To answer the question poised in the intro: No. No, those $160m worth of ticket-buyers were not right. Grown Ups is not a good movie. It’s not funny, it’s not well-made, it doesn’t even really serve that much of a purpose. It’s the kind of comedy where every moment that’s even remotely amusing gets spent in the film’s trailer (which, of course, gets played 300 times per day on every channel, in every theater, and in every country until you bow before it and purchase a ticket), where a fat guy falling down is expected to provoke endless bellylaughs from the audience, where we’re expected to pretend that Rob Schneider is still funny. Grown Ups– and, I assure you, it brings me no pleasure to report this, as I’m a fan of more than half of the leads in this film– is just as bad as you’d expect it to be.
The most glaring offense, in my opinion, is the all-too-obvious behind-the-scenes tale that Grown Ups tells. This is quite obviously a film that was overproduced before a single frame was filmed, the result of a meeting that must’ve started with the phrase, “Let’s just have everyone that normally cameos in Adam Sandler’s movies appear as co-stars and call it an ‘ensemble comedy’”. It’s a vanity project on par with Travolta’s Battlefield Earth, and it’s just about as good. See, about once a year, Adam Sandler releases a new comedy. Sandler seems to have about a 60% success rate: a little more than half the time, these films are worth checking out once or twice, good summer comedies, but nothing more. The rest of the time, he’s making films that just don’t measure up, that are coasting on his past successes and hoping to hoodwink audiences into laughing because…well, what they’re seeing is familiar. If it was funny the first time, surely it’ll be funny the ninth time, right? This is one of the latter, and it’s one of his slightest efforts.
Think about that sentence: “It’s one of Adam Sandler’s slightest efforts”. That’s what we’re dealing with here. And Rob Schneider’s involved. Oy, vey.
Not so much. Grown Ups is ostensibly about five childhood friends who have all grown up (more or less), landed jobs, settled down, and still kinda pine for the monkey business of their youth. Also: years ago, they were triumphant on the court against another group of kids in a basketball game, and the opposing team is still (quite strangely…and conveniently) bent outta shape about it. When the crew reunites– for what the film’s cover calls a “holiday weekend” and I call a “poor plot device”– old rivalries are dealt with, lessons are learned, and the wives of these man-children stand by and watch their husbands act not unlike special-needs children for a few days. In the end, they’re given a chance to stick it to those kids (now adults, obviously) that stomped them on the basketball court, and you can probably guess how that turns out (then again, maybe not). If I were you, I would’ve stopped reading this paragraph at “”still kinda pine for the monkey business of their youth”, because that’s all you need to know to know what Grown Ups is about.
For 102 minutes, Grown Ups plods along, seeming more like a collection of half-assed, throw-out SNL sketches involving overgrown kids than a reason to make a movie. Had the plot been a little more developed, or had anything of any real value actually been said through this script, Grown Ups might not feel like the vanity project that it obviously is. Sandler’s capable of great things (Punch-Drunk Love, I’m looking in your direction), Rock’s brilliant (though, admittedly, more often on stage than on screen), and even Kevin James is capable of elevating some material. But Grown Ups is beneath each and every one of them, feeling more like a film that David Spade or Rob Schneider (both of whom appear here, dragging James, Rock, and Sandler down to their level) should’ve starred in.
You could say, “Well, it’s only 102 minutes, it’s harmless, how bad could it be?”, but you’d be missing the point: Grown Ups didn’t need to be an award-winning, hard-hitting, deep movie to be a successful film. It just had to be funny, and it’s not. When I tell you that all the remotely funny scenes were in the trailer, I mean just that: I defy you to find one moment here that’s borderline-funny…that also didn’t appear in the film’s marketing campaign. I wish nothing but the best for (most of) the cast here, but it’s impossible to recommend thi movie, even to the families that it’s clearly geared towards. There are a bajillion other family-friendly comedies around, so why waste your time with this one? If I had kids, I’d show ‘em the 25th anniversary, Blu-ray edition of The Goonies that just came out before I’d wreck their psyches with this nonsense (and the site of Rob Schneider mugging down with what appears to be a septugenarian).
The Blu-ray arrives with a blooper reel, a gag reel (yeah, that’s right: a blooper reel and a gag reel– oh, boy), a featurette that covers the film’s large cast (in addition to everyone mentioned above, the voluptuous Selma Hayek, Maria Bello, and the otherwise hilarious Maya Rudolph play the wives), and– exclusive to Blu-ray– deleted scenes, a riff-o-rama (which people who have picked up any of Judd Apatow’s films on DVD will be familiar with; this was one of the only mildly enjoyable things about the Grown Ups Blu-ray I received, film included), and a featurette on the director, Dennis Dugan (shame on you, sir). The film’s also been mastered in 1080p, but what difference does it make? If you’re determined to own Grown Ups, you’d probably get just as much (?) enjoyment out of it by picking up the DVD and saving yourself a few bucks. Do you really need to see Kevin James soiling a wet suit in 1080p? I submit to you that you do not.
Final verdict? If you saw Grown Ups in theaters and enjoyed it, hey, more power to ya. Pick up the Blu-ray, because you’ll probably wanna see it again at some point. Unfortunately, Grown Ups wasn’t for me, and if you think that you might fall into my camp, you should stay far, far away from this one– on any format.