You’ve probably seen the poster for Grown Ups, with its stars—Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James—barreling down a waterslide. Or is the verb I’m looking for “coasting”?
Grown Ups begins with a flashback to a 1978 boys’ basketball championship, where the starting five look like 12-year-old versions of the aforementioned lineup. Introducing the cast as recognizable adolescent versions of the adult characters they’ll grow into is a move familiar from the mid-’90s Saturday Night Live movie template, a la Chris Farley and Spade at the beginning of Tommy Boy—and Grown Ups is a Class of 1990 reunion for SNL’s 16th season, where now-fortysomething stars Sandler, Rock, Spade, and Schneider all debuted (Kevin James fields fat jokes for the late Farley). True to its lineage, Grown Ups even ends with a climactic contest—I’m surprised they don’t save somebody’s family business along the way.
Grown Ups catches up with the teammates 30 years later, reunited for Coach’s funeral in their New England hometown (helpfully identified onscreen as “New England”). Star shooter Sandler is a Hollywood agent, married to successful fashion designer Salma Hayek and exasperated by two spoiled sons who live inside nihilistic video games (echoing Click’s Luddite message, and humorously visualized). Rock is a stay-at-home dad with a third kid on the way from Maya Rudolph; James’s “48-month-old” is still breastfeeding from mom Maria Bello, to the delight of David Spade, importing his still-single horndog shtick, while Schneider is the New-Age-sensitive-guy who the gang single out for razzing because of his granola-granny wife, his veganism, and his use of poultices.
Entrusted with Coach’s ashes, the boys and their families head for their old summer-getaway lodge, where they sit in Adirondack chairs by a perpetually gold-shimmering lake. The guest list includes the urn, Rock’s stock-comic mother-in-law, a dog with snipped vocal cords (its gurgling bark one of many if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed running jokes), five men, four wives, and 10 kids. This small army becomes a gridlock of gags and plotlines, with conflicts and assigned traits dropped and hastily retrieved as needed. Rudolph is the only capable comedienne among the wives; the men are either unfunny or, if given fewer lines, useless. Though the uncynical goodwill that accompanies Sandler’s work makes footing this vacation bill less enraging than the toxic Couples Retreat, it’s one of those Sandler movies where the inevitable Steve Buscemi cameo passes for the highlight.
Happy Madison Productions house director Dennis Dugan’s comic timing here is a snap-snap-let’s-go rush to the next “outrageous” moment: potentially fatal pratfalls, repeated public urination, crotch hits, gushers of breast milk, Grandmama’s infected big toe, Coach’s ashes blown over a prominently displayed bucket of KFC Grilled Chicken. (In a piece of admirable restraint, only Spade displays his bare ass.) While Sandler has never trafficked in epigrammatic wit, there’s a difference between, say, Billy Madison’s “Of course I peed my pants—everyone my age pees their pants” or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’s shakedown of hetero squeamishness, and this lazy stuff—the difference between smart-dumb and plain-dumb.