Grown Ups got a lot of flak when it first came out in theaters as many critics complained that it was just Adam Sandler and his buddies cracking jokes about each other. Is it as bad as everybody says it is? Well, that depends. Do you want to see a movie where Adam Sandler and his buddies just crack jokes about each other? If you do, then you might just like this movie. If you don’t, well, join the club.
There was a time in my life (in many of our lives, really) when Adam Sandler could do no wrong. I’d like to call this the Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison years, back when Adam Sandler was in the funniest movies on the planet, and he was the funniest comedian in those movies. It didn’t really matter that Adam Sandler was just one little component in what were really solid (and surreal) stories. You just assumed that if it had Sandler in it, it meant quality. A lot of us thought it was Adam who was making all this possible, not really paying attention to how good the scripts actually were. And then came Little Nicky, where Adam was still doing his normal, strange guy shtick, but the script just wasn’t of the same quality as his earlier movies. People were disillusioned it. How could Adam Sandler make a crummy film? Did this signal the end of one of America’s favorite comedians?
Since then, Adam Sandler made the shocking-then, understandable-now decision to veer into drama (Reign Over Me, Punch-Drunk Love), and only seldom does he pick up the Anger Managements here or the You Don’t Mess with the Zohans there. It’s usually a big event when he decides to star in a big, broad comedy. So what could be better than paring him with some of the biggest comedians of both yesterday and today: Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James (Paul Blart himself!), and Rob Schneider? Seriously, could there possibly be a bigger event when it comes to a Sandler comedy? This should have been the movie that put Sandler back on the map as one of America’s favorite comedians. And it did. But not in a good way.
Grown Ups made quite a bit of money at the box office, so it proves that Sandler is still a marquee name (because seriously, when have Rock, Spade, James, or Schneider ever really been big box-office draws by themselves?). But while his name is still there, the charm of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore is certainly gone. Gone are the fits of rage over things of little consequence. Gone are the surreal jokes about punching Bob Barker in the face. Gone are the quirky little details that made Adam Sandler movies distinctly his own. All we have left are the little, mean-spirited (but sometimes funny) jokes, which were never really my favorite parts of the Sandler early years. But hey, I guess it’s better than nothing, right? At least we have Sandler telling Kevin James to stop eating all the KFC. Because he’s fat, you see. He told Kevin James that because he’s fat.
What really dampens Grown Ups, though, is not the lack of jokes for Sandler, as he pretty much gets all the best lines in the movie, few though they are. What stinks is that all of the other comedians, in their own right, have at least made me laugh over the years in some form or fashion. And all of them (outside of possibly James) are so poorly utilized in this movie that it seems like a major waste of time for any of them to even be in it. For instance, why doesn’t Chris Rock have a single funny line in the movie? Why does it have to be all Sandler, all the time? Why couldn’t somebody else have a shot at slinging a funny line here or there? Why did he have to be so selfish?
In a way, this movie is really confused. It’s an Adam Sandler comedy, no question, as the jokes take center stage and the storyline takes a back seat, but at the same time, it’s not one at all, as all the other characters have backstories that are supposed to be relevant and humorous but aren’t in any way whatsoever. Chris Rock is a stay-at-home dad, and his wife (Maya Rudolf) makes the figurative bacon, while he makes the literal bacon at home in a pan. The ongoing joke is that he’s emasculated in his role as a husband, which could be funny in its own right, but instead, because the movie is built on a tower of crumbling jokes, it’s just pushed off with him getting upset that his wife is always making fun of him liking the kitchen. And that’s not funny. How is that supposed to be funny? Couldn’t the movie have gone deeper than that? I feel like something’s missing here, and I’m pretty sure it’s the comedy.
David Spade says so little that I almost forgot that he was even in the movie, and the running gag about Kevin James being overweight runs its course by the first joke. Also, Rob Schneider doing the dirty with an old woman had scads of potential. Unfortunately, all of the Schneider-dating-strange-women jokes were spent in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, so it’s not all that funny here. All we’re left with is Sandler joking around with his friends, which might be appealing to some, but for those who grew up loving Sandler films for being so unique, it’s just not enough. Sure, there are some funny scenes, and you can tell they’re having a good time joking about each other -- in many ways, it feels like one giant roast for all of them -- but it’s just not enough. Will we ever get the old Sandler back? Probably not, but at least he’s a pretty good actor. And who would have ever thought that while watching Big Daddy? Adam Sandler: good actor. It seriously boggles my mind. But not as much as people actually liking this film. That, I will never understand.
As if you didn’t get enough of Sandler and the gang goofing around, we get a special feature in "Laughing Is Contagious" and a blooper reel, both of which are more of the same nonsense you already had to sit through when you watched the film. You also get to hear the actors and actresses fawn over each other in "The Cast of Grown Ups" featurette, which informs us that Adam Sandler is a hard worker. Fascinating.
While I wasn’t expecting much in the way of special features for the DVD release, I’m a little pissed off that they didn’t put any more effort into it. Sure, a lot of people hated this movie, but I’m willing to wager that a lot of people actually liked it given the large box-office pull, and I’m sure those people would have liked to hear commentary by either the director or one of the actors in the film. (Like Rob Schneider. It’s not like he’s doing anything these days, right?) Really, I’m pretty sure that all of the actors in this film knew that once it was out there, there was nothing to be proud of and they wanted to move away from it as soon as they could when it was panned by critics and fans alike. Still, that’s no excuse not to put more effort into the actual special features. I feel like they just added them because it’s unacceptable to have a modern DVD release with nothing but a trailer and a scene-selection feature. Audiences want more, and the people who put out this DVD decided that more is a blooper reel which is even less funny than the movie itself, and a featurette on the cast that doesn’t reveal anything about them that we didn’t already know. What a waste. The special features on this disc suck, but just a tad bit less than the movie. That’s why I gave it one-star difference. I guess I’m feeling generous today.