TIM LINCE: Grown Ups

Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Steve Buscemi, Salma Hayek and Rob Schneider. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Released August 6 2010. Certificate 12A. Genre – Comedy.

My thoughts before

OH Adam Sandler, the Marmite of the movie world.

As a teenager, just as he was taking off, I remember going to the cinema to see one of his better-recognised films – Big Daddy. My memory was of finding it really hilarious and subsequently asking for it on video for Christmas.

However, I saw it recently and it really wasn’t as good as memories recall. Horrible in fact.


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Maybe it’s not aged well or maybe, as I suspect, his humour doesn’t really stimulate the brain for anyone aged 15 or above. I’ve seen snippets of recent films too (Funny People, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan) and I couldn’t watch either all the way through. I just found Adam Sandler interminable (although slightly odd he doesn’t seem to have aged at all since Big Daddy).

But he must be doing something right; every year there’s a token Sandler film released and seems to hang around the top five of the box office for a few weeks. So he does have quite a following and I doubt it’s a recycled list of the 12-16 age bracket.

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The cast for grown-ups seems to have taken a step-up from most of the token Sandler films though, with cult figure Steve Buscemi and the rather attractive Mexican actress Salma Hayek involved; both figures I always look forward to seeing in a film. But then it also has Rob Schneider, most famous for a brilliant mickey-take on South Park a few years ago.

But director Dennis Dugan, who has directed nearly every Sandler film since 1999, is back on board once again so I know before watching that this will be the exact humour and content of most other Adam Sandler movies (at least last year’s Funny People was slightly different to the usual clich� of his work).

So I am fully prepared to be the only one not chuckling in the cinema; but maybe this one is different, maybe this will contain all the humour that’s been missing in all the other recent films of Sandler, Schneider and Dugan.

Afterwards

WHAT a struggle that was. Grown Ups promises the fun-filled comedy of grown men acting like kids again and, well, that didn’t really happen.

Drunk messing around and staring/perving at friends’ attractive younger daughters doesn’t constitute acting childish, and only a couple of moments (with their children) of rope swinging and water sliding fulfilled the criteria it set out clearly in the marketing (with the tagline ‘boys will be boys, some longer than other’ – rubbish!).

But Grown Ups is, in fact, a 100-minute (that honestly felt like three times that) look at five school friends, their dysfunctional families and their long weekend at a holiday house in the American countryside.

Adam Sandler really stretches himself here, as he basically plays himself. Watch out for this one at the Oscars next year; his horribly wooden attempt at one-liners and his lazy habit of slowly slurring words (that’s always been my big niggle with him) will go down in history.

The rest of the school friends give equally painful performances too.

Chris Rock (playing a house husband constantly bossed around by his wife and mother-in-law) is given barely any screen time and when he does appear it’s to deliver lines that feel like they are literally just being read from a script (and with the token black joke slotted in at the end too). And it’s not a very good script he’s reading from either.

Kevin James (playing a husband in a family with a few odd dynamics, including a son still breastfeeding at four years old – not at all stolen from Little Britain and countless other comedies) offers a performance I can barely remember already.

Rob Schneider (playing a three times divorced weirdo and now dating a woman 30 years his senior, and although she is easily old enough to be his nan they have a very active and loud sex life) is obviously a wet blanket in real-life and it seems he gets parts in these well marketed and budgeted films because he’s willing to do things the other more respected actors won’t – kiss much older women, get constantly slapped with bags of food and just generally be like that kid at school who was in the cool gang but was constantly bullied by them.

The main problem with the film is that it simply doesn’t deliver enough humour for kids or adults. What is basically a family trip to the woods means kids are constantly around in scenes, leaving no room to push the boat out in terms of humour.

Basically, it’s a movie filled with dad-jokes.

You know the ones; told by a father when you invited your friends round as a kid, as he tried to be cool around them. Or the types of awkward one-liners he said if you’re having dinner with other people. The jokes were always family friendly, for all ages, and never quite sharp enough to be funny.

Each badly written ‘joke’ never surpassed the ‘dad-joke’ level, and was made even worse as most of them were followed by laughter from characters on screen – fake laughter from children, horrible!

And then it got worse – a five minute scene that will stay with me for a long time, so awkward that even the obviously keen Adam Sandler fans in the theatre had their head in their hands.

It was that scene, which seems to happen in most films like this, where characters learn from past mistakes and find some kind of retribution and improvement. But the sentimentality was so forced, so uncomfortable, so plainly bad acted that it created a new bar for badness – as each character, in order of fame, proclaimed “yeah whilst we are being honest I’d like to say this” and then guilty family members apologised and promise to change, followed by a long group hug.

The cheesy music, the riverside setting, the schmaltzy fakeness of it all was too much to bear. The only redemption was that it meant the end was arriving soon.

Everyone involved, except maybe Salma Hayek, felt seriously passed it and the air of awkwardness really never left for the entire duration. The horribly predictable ending (that you could easily guess from minute one) only added salt to the wound.

So I ask this to anyone considering watching Grown Ups: do you really want over an hour-and-a-half of dad-jokes? Do you really want to watch Adam Sandler’s face attempt emotion for 100 minutes? The art of movie-making has been around for more than 100 years now, do you really want to waste your time on this when there are hundreds (literally) of better comedies out there?

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