by KYW’s Bill Wine
Substitute Chris Farley for Kevin James and you’ve got quite a “Saturday Night Live” reunion going.
That’s because Grown Ups features, in addition to James, a quartet of alums from the late-night TV show: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider.
And they’ve convened to participate in as lazy and dreadful a movie in any genre as you’re likely to see, one that shows an absolute contempt for its audience, grown up or not.
Well, right back atcha, Grown Ups. You’re not just a bomb, you’re a stink bomb.
Grown Ups, with its asinine two-word title, is a reunion comedy set in New England about five friends, with their wives and kids, who gather for a 4th of July weekend celebration at the lake house where they spent many of their early summers.
They were not only childhood friends but, at age 12, teammates on a middle-school basketball team that won a city championship — a team whose beloved coach has just passed away.
Sandler, who not only produced but co-wrote the screenplay with “Saturday Night Live” writer Fred Wolf, has consistently hired his buddies for movie projects. That may be an admirable quality in a friend, but when that level of Hollywood entitlement clouds artistic judgment to this extent, something is severely out of whack.
Veteran comedy director Dennis Dugan has worked with his principal players before (with Sandler and Rock in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan; Sandler in Big Daddy and Happy Gilmore; Sandler and James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; Spade and Schneider in The Benchwarmers), but none of them has ever been seen in a worse light than the one that this miserable excuse for a family movie shines on them.
Dugan lets his cast do considerable ad-libbing throughout his haphazard and mostly plotless mess, one which repeats jokes incessantly and merely invites you to hang out with these allegedly amusing comics at their impromptu party for an hour and a half.
If there ever was an actual script involved, someone tossed it in the lake.
Broad slapstick is one thing, lowbrow joking is another. But neither describes the bottom-of-the-barrel, going-nowhere-in-a-hurry material trotted out here, much of it unnecessarily tasteless and cruel.
When we suddenly find ourselves, in the middle of this miserable, meandering movie, watching extended and seemingly endless footage of cast members merely BARRELING DOWN A CHUTE AT A WATER PARK, you realize that everyone involved has just given up.
No one gives a performance worth watching, while Sandler doesn’t even try to create a character or keep inappropriate smirks off his face. Everyone else just looks embarrassed to be involved, and no one more than Chris Rock, who seems to be looking for an exit strategy that never quite develops. He looks as if he wishes he were in a murder mystery so that he might be killed off early on. No such luck.
The supporting cast boasts Steve Buscemi, Salma Hayek, and Maria Bello — all looking as ill at ease and wasted as the five leads — and Maya Rudolph, the one performer to coax a legitimate chuckle or two.
Why, we find ourselves wondering, would anyone want to grow up in a place where Grown Ups was accepted as passable entertainment?
So we’ll grow ½ a star out of 4 for what is so far the year’s very worst movie, the lethargic and inept Grown Ups, a woeful project that allows producer Adam Sandler, screenwriter Adam Sandler, and actor Adam Sandler to fall on the same face.