MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Comedy/ Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Joyce Van Patten, Ebony Jo-Ann, Di Quon, Colin Quinn, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Madison Riley, Jamie Chung, Ashley Loren, Jake Goldberg, Cameron Boyce, Alexys Nycole Sanchez, Ada-Nicole Sanger, Nadji Jeter, China Anne McClain, Dan Patrick, Tim Herlihy, Blake Clark, Norm Macdonald, Jonathan Loughran, Kevin Grady, Richie Minervini, Dennis Dugan, Lisa M. Francis, Berkeley Holman, J.D. Donaruma, Alec Musser/ Runtime: 102 minutes
It really is quite telling, to say nothing of unfortunate, that the slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing today 2010’s Grown Ups is one that has the potential to be something truly special and yet upon seeing the finished movie realize it is only decent at best. Indeed the idea of putting together 5 people, and real-life friends, who can actually be funny when given the right material into a single slice of cinematic pie might have seemed like a winning recipe for a good film, but instead this is a film that does no more and no less than check off all the prerequisite boxes everywhere you look. Indeed there is quite a bit of genuinely funny material here, but with those moments also come an equal amount of comedy that is frustratingly misfired. Indeed that contrast between good premise, gifted cast, and mehhh delivery, wasting that talent, and decent at best final product is quite apparent throughout film helmer Dennis Dugan’s latest tip-toeing foray into the genre of movie magic known as comedy. I mean don’t get me wrong dear reader: Grown Ups is not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it most assuredly is nowhere near on the level of comedic brilliance that it darn well could have been. Indeed for every joke that lands on target, there is also one that is wildly off target, for every delightful moment that shows these men as a quintet of real-life buddies, there is also a comedic bit that is bland and one-note, and for every supporting cast member that is amusing in some way there is one who just isn’t needed at all in this movie. Suffice it to say then that Grown Ups sadly is unable to find the right equilibrium for all that it authentically presents to the contrary; indeed everything here is in just the right spot to strike comedy gold yet just when this slice of cinematic pie seems set to hit that particular vein, it falls flat on its face thus giving us a rollercoaster of a film that is worth at least a watch, but at the same time will have you pondering just how much better it could have been in the process as well.
The plot is as follows: Grown-Ups tells the story of a quintet of old pals by the names of Lenny Feder, Eric Lamonsoff, Kurt McKenzie, Marcus Higgins, and Rob Hillard who find themselves brought back together en route to that lovely time in one’s life known as midlife after they all find out that their beloved basketball coach from when they were kids has tragically passed on. Yet despite being kept apart by both time and distance, we see that the old gang is able to reconnect like no time has passed despite being older, fluffier, financially sound or lack thereof, or odder. To that end, we see that Lenny who has always been seen as sort of the head of the squad to say nothing of the most well-off of the group, makes the decision to rent a getaway for the weekend so the friends can try to find again just what it was that made them such an amazing team when they were younger both when they were and weren’t playing basketball. To that end, we see that as they spend time with each other and their respective family units, they come to see that middle age hasn’t completely sapped them of their ability to have fun to say nothing of their cohesiveness as a unit. However when a rival basketball squad from back in the day turns up and “politely” requests a rematch of the defining match they won with their coach, our quintet find themselves having to get back into shape should they wish to hit the court and find not only victory once more, but also in the process of finding the net maybe just maybe finding themselves as well once more as well….
Now it is safe to say that Grown Ups is actually able to function at a much better tempo in the beginning than it does in the middle and at the end. Indeed this slice of cinematic pie is actually able to find a wonderful balance between comedic and touching as we see these guys assemble for the memorial of their beloved mentor and it also hits just the right note between humor and pathos as we see them gather to pay their respects in their own ways at the actual memorial. Indeed right from the get go, this slice of cinematic pie promises us the potential of a great, not merely good, time and the moment we see Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade all on screen together, you really can’t help but to expect just that from some comedic icons who I feel actually can be quite entertaining with the right material. Of course, as the world of movie magic is known for fulfilling, sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men tend to go awry. A phrase that I feel describes this movie to the absolute letter. Indeed, as seen therein, this slice of cinematic pie sadly tries way too hard to be so many different things whilst having way too many characters and as a result just as many jokes fail miserably as there are those which actually work. To be fair, a lot of the blame for this does go to the supporting ingredients surrounding our main quintet. Yes they too have stumble-worthy moments of their own, but I feel that can be more attributed to a poorly written section of script more than their comedic talents. As a result we get a movie that looks like it was hit repeatedly with a shotgun. Indeed some jokes land, others don’t, there’s no logic to the points of pathos, and the script is still overflowing with characters and inorganic as all get out with a lot of its humor.
Now even if this distinct slice of cinematic pie is not able to ever get its tempo to be consistent, there is one thing that it does right and that is the fact that its main quintet is downright electric. Indeed this slice of cinematic pie is a tailor made film in every sense of the word and the script sometimes falls flat as a consequence since it seems like this movie’s writers hoped that the stars attached could make these stale comedic bits fresh again. A tactic that doesn’t work as often as it should even as the main 5 do try to make the script work to the best of their ability. Thus it is also up to them to really get audiences interested in wanting to watch this particular film and as seen in the finished product the 5 are able to do so by providing audiences with a more expansive range than what you might think possible from them that also operates as the sole cohesive element keeping this particular movie together. Indeed the best thing that this slice of cinematic pie has going for it is the friendship between the 5 guys at the heart of this story. Indeed not only are they believable as lifelong amigos with several scenes showing us as much, but also in the more low-key moments where we see them pondering their lives, their friendship, the man who brought them all together, and how life seems to be passing them by quicker than they can hold on to it. Suffice it to say then that this dynamic quintet manages to showcase a integrity-laced bond with each other that is truly a beautiful thing to see and although the movie does give them moments where we see just how strong their bond with each other is, it’s still quite disheartening to see the rest of this slice of cinematic pie not be able to meet Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider with the same A-game that they bring to this movie and their individual parts respectively.
All in all yes it saddens me to tell you that Grown Ups is one slice of cinematic pie that is not quite able to fully get the most out of a genuinely good narrative hook. At the very least though, this slice of cinematic pie does manage to possess a genuinely, when they wish to be, good cast that manages to wring out just the right amounts of comedy, pathos, and comradery to make this slice of cinematic pie worth at the very least a viewing. Tragically, everything else that manages to exist in this movie besides the main cast including the secondary cast being given characters who are one note in the worst way possible, comedy that feels pushed onto the audience rather than organic, a script that is mehhh at best, and a tempo that every so often feels like it is seriously lagging all aid in bringing this slice of cinematic pie down a few spots on the proverbial totem pole as it were. Suffice it to say that I strongly feel that not only is there a significantly better film to be found amidst all of this, but that if you are a fan of any of the actors involved in this to say nothing of the cast themselves then you, and they, most assuredly deserve a movie that is not quite as disappointingly run of the mill as this slice of cinematic pie turns out to be. On a scale of 1-5 I give Grown Ups “2010” a solid 3 out of 5.