Adam Sandler seems to have two significant talents: 1) he’s a perfectly good actor and 2) he has a limitless capacity for disappointing me. He must be doing it on purpose – there’s nobody else in Hollywood who combines a likeable and believable on-screen persona with such an extraordinary string of bloody awful films. Mr Deeds, Click, that thing about the hairdresser commando… his appetite for dreadful projects seems to be insatiable. Sandler’s latest film, which Wikipedia hideously describes as a “buddy comedy”, slots perfectly into his CV as a further exposition of his ability to deliver crude jokes and ham-fisted bonding nonsense whilst wearing a series of baggy T-shirts.
Grown Ups opens with a scene set in 1978, where a youth basketball team is in the process of winning a championship game. At a dinner that evening, the boys are praised by their coach and urged to “play life like you played that game”, which they enthusiastically agree to do. Fast forward thirty years, and the basketball team are now men in their mid-forties who are reunited in their hometown at the coach’s funeral. Lenny (Sandler) is a big-shot Hollywood agent with a fashion designer wife and three outrageously spoilt children, and the others are all dragging along wives and offspring with the exception of Marcus (Spade), an inveterate bachelor, and Rob (Schneider), a new-age goon with a geriatric wife.
The five families rent a chalet for the weekend, and Lenny is dismayed to realise that his kids are totally unused to the simple pleasures of the outdoors. What follows is a spectacularly contrived series of events in which the main cast are given free rein to act like idiots, the children gradually segue from being pampered gits into regular gits, and Salma Hayek parades around with her chin gently resting in her abnormally buoyant cleavage.
One liners, one note performances and a one idea script
It becomes apparent from about ten minutes in that the entire film is building up to a climactic rematch between Sandler’s smug gang of five and their 70s rivals (all of whom have spectacularly failed at life). Until we’re finally treated to the game around the 85-minute mark, there’s nothing to do but sit and grit your teeth through the plodding dross of the film itself – there are a few obligatory babes, a flatulent grandmother and a cameo from Steve Buscemi, and I promise you these are the high points. Most of the actual humour is in the form of one-liners fired between characters, who then guffaw loudly so you don’t have to – it is simply so, SO boring.
Adam Sandler is a good actor. So is Rob Schneider. Salma Hayek is a superb actress, even after you discount her breasts. They are all capable of doing so, so much more than this. I dare say that Grown Ups is perfectly good if you’ve liked Adam Sandler’s other films, but objectively it is a spectacular triumph of mediocrity over any attempt at intelligent writing or directing. There’s nothing dreadful – some parts are even mildly funny – but it’s unashamedly lowbrow and so beige that if it were a cardigan I would buy it for my maiden aunt. I would almost rather Adam Sandler put his stamp on a genuinely bad film than continue to make such predictable rubbish.