Culture > Movies
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Grown ups


Issue: "Tilting at turbines," July 17, 2010

Fans of Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James are getting older. Grown Ups (rated PG-13) attempts to reflect the inevitability of age by saddling these traditionally autonomous comedians with wives and families. In theory, the cast of this movie could be a sort of comedic dream team. In reality, the ensemble falls flat.

The problem is not necessarily the dynamics amongst this group of comedians and their fictional wives; actually the relationships often feel genuine. And the portrayal of family is not hopeless. In Grown Ups, the ultimate yearning of flawed parents is to connect with their children. Eventually, the kids put down those cell phones and video games and once everyone commits, the result is a successful multifamily vacation.

What fails is the attempt at blending the family setting with the crude obsessions that serve as regular material for these comedians' work. The result is a movie about family filled with running jokes about breast milk, flatulence, peeing, and inappropriate sexual objectification.

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Sandler (who also co-wrote and produced the movie) is a gifted comedian but inconsistent-for every Bedtime Stories there is an I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry-and it is difficult to watch him act like he is in a movie with heart. It seems Sandler meant to make a movie that invites fathers to share in the jokes about family life.

Grown Ups does not completely fail, but it succeeds not as a family movie but as a male bonding ritual. The flimsy plot-five guys and their families reunited for a funeral and the July 4th weekend when their middle school basketball coach dies-meanders through a lot of crass jokes and predictable scenarios in order to allow these characters to banter.

The film seems to strive for the unlikely niche audience of adult male friends who enjoy movie outings. More likely, men in the stage of life these guys purport to represent have moved on.


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