"Grown Ups" is the latest offering from director Dennis Dugan. Given Dugan's penchant for juvenile comedies starring Saturday Night Live graduates, the viewer should be clued into the genre long before the first frame begins to roll. The plot revolves around a reunion of five childhood basketball players after the death of their awe inspiring coach. Though the viewer is given an image of each player's personality during adolesence, and though they remain fairly true of the character of their youth, the viewer is struck by just how different each turned out. Adam Sandler (who else?) plays Lenny Feder, the biggest agent in Hollywood with the trophy wife (Salma Hayek), the huge house, and two spoiled sons (they actually text their order for hot chocolate to the maid while playing a video game). Kevin James stars as Eric, the family guy with a wife who still nurses their four year old; David Spade is Marcus the womanizer; Chris Rock portrays Kurt the henpecked husband of the very pregnant Deanne (Maya Rudolph); and Rob Schneider plays Rob the hippie with the wife who probably qualifies for the senior menu at the local diner.
Each of these characters has one or more moments of clarity regarding the meaning of life during this brief stay with their buddies and their families. And they all come away from the experience with a renewed appreciation for the important people in their lives. The movie awkwardly ambles toward a climax in which they have an opportunity for a rematch against the team they beat for the state championship when they were young. The movie has a number of funny moments, most of which involve the revelation that none of them have their lives completely together. Unfortunately the writers attempt to parlay friendly normal male trash-talking (AKA bonding) into a race to see how many jokes they can insert within a short span of time. In other words, they tried too hard to be funny. The result was some rather tiresome stretches of film. What does work is the fact that the characters did not end up taking themselves so seriously. They were goaded reluctantly into this rematch and winning doesn't end up being as important as the relationships they have developed. I also was glad that the writers elected not to go for an easy feelgood ending where Deanne suddenly goes into early labor, thus forcing everyone to discard their differences. Rudolph is funnier as a domineering pregnant working woman.
If you go expecting the typical movie starring Spade, Sandler or Schnieder, you won't be surprised or disappointed. This movie actually comes off as less childish, more thoughtful, and in some cases a little funnier. I give it three and a half stars out of five.