REVIEW: Grown Ups

19 07 2010

In “Grown Ups,” Adam Sandler and friends have three stages: childish, adolescently juvenile, and grown up.

When they are childish, the movie is old and trite.  We’ve seen all the bathroom humor, boob humor, fat humor, hot girl humor, and racial humor Sandler can throw at us.  It was funny in the ’90s whenever movies like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” were rocking the comedy scene.  But Sandler hasn’t changed his game much since then, and it’s time to move on from the silly and stupid just to get a quick laugh.  In fact, I usually just groan now.

When they are adolescently juvenile, the movie takes flight.  I assume that a lot of this is outside the lines, improvisational stuff.  I felt like I was watching them brainstorming one-liners for SNL in the writer’s room.  It’s like they are reaching out and including us in these creative sessions as they just rattle off joke after joke.  They have some clever wordplay and witty situations when they are at this level, and it’s where they should dwell more often.

When they are grown up, the movie is corny and laughable.  There’s that obligatory “oh, we’ve been joking the whole time, let’s grow up quickly and have a lesson” scene towards the end that derails all the comedic momentum the movie built up.  And this one is so bad and so out of place I can only hope Sandler and pals meant it to play off as a giant joke.

All comics are not created equal, as the movie shows us.  Sandler writes the best for himself, making he and his wife, played by the gorgeous and incredibly out of place Salma Hayek, the only normal ones.  Compared to him, the successful Hollywood agent, we are supposed to assume that everyone else is a loser in comparison to him.  There’s the Mr. Mom played by Chris Rock, the obese therefore butt of jokes played by Kevin James, the creepy bachelor played by David Spade, and the just plain creeper played by Rob Schneider.  Spade’s bits are stale, Rock is fair, Chris Farley’s doppleganger James is good enough not to make us yearn for the late star, and Schneider is as good as he’s ever been – which is to say that he wasn’t funny then and he’s not funny now.

So in the end, it’s that creative spark that comes from just reeling off one-liners and playing off each other that saves the movie from being a total disaster.  It’s that more refined immaturity that we don’t get nearly enough of that keeps us coming back to Sandler’s movies.  Because we don’t want Adam Sandler to grow up so much as just move on.  C /





REVIEW: Away We Go

12 08 2009

At the request of a dedicated reader, I decided to bump up my review of “Away We Go.”  I drove 45 minutes away to a remote suburb of Houston back in April to be one of the first people to see the movie, and I was not disappointed.  Two months later, I was there to see it again on its first weekend playing at an art house theater in Houston.  So needless to say, I really enjoyed the movie.  It is well-acted, featuring star turns from John Krasinski (Jim from TV’s “The Office”) and Maya Rudolph (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), but it is really buoyed by its phenomenal supporting cast.  The film features a very heartfelt screenplay from Dave Eggers (author of “What is the What”) and his wife Vendela Vida.

Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) are a gentle, loving couple expecting a baby.  As all good parents do, they want their child to have a better life than they did.  So the two of them set out on a journey to find what they never really could: a home.  They visit old friends and family members, seeing broken relationships, marital tension, and lives that they don’t want to lead.  They discover that all they can do is love each other and hope that everything else works out. Read the rest of this entry »