There's a certain base level of irony embedded in the title of Grown-Ups, even beyond the intentional sense of "these are grown men who remember how to enjoy the same things they did when they were 12." You know things are going to be bad when Adam Sandler fingers Rob Schneider's ass in the parking lot at the funeral of their dear old basketball coach within minutes of the film's opening; unfortunately that might be the high water mark of the film's attempts at making its audience chuckle. This is a painfully stupid and virtually laugh-free movie, made worse by a good amount of demoralizing insult humor that targets anyone who's mildly outside strict physical standards.
The film is also mostly free of narrative; five friends who were on a basketball team in their youth and won "the championship" (championship of what is never explained), reconvene fortysome years later to commemorate the death of their coach and spend some time at the lake house they all used to spend the summers at. (What's mildly amusing about this is that their basketball team consisted of five and only five kids; no subs, no injury replacements, no nothing.) There's Sandler, wealthy Hollywood agent and husband to a beautiful, successful wife (did I mention that Sandler co-wrote this movie?); Kevin James, aka The Fat Guy; Chris Rock, aka The Black Guy Who Can't Cook; Schneider, aka The Ugly Guy Who Likes Old Women; and David Spade, aka The Generic Single Guy Who'll Screw Anything That Moves.
That plot summary up above is about all that's given - there's no real arc to speak of or act structure to note, no problems to overcome or tension to propel the movie forward. There's a horrible opening scene at their coach's wake (with a location pop-up that helpfully reads "New England"), at which all of the men take their time to heap generous amounts of insults on each other while avoiding anything but the most tertiary display of mourning. And as soon as they get done with the funeral, you know it's an awesome time to kick off a party weekend! Wooo!
So we wind up with a bunch of dudes and their wives and kids hanging out at a lake over the course of a Fourth of July weekend; the men attempt to get their kids to get out of the house and play something other than video games, while also learning to enjoy the great outdoors again themselves and trying to recapture the glory of faded youth. What follows is an unbearable, if not unwatchable, sequence of insults, gross-out humor, physical "comedy", and vapid sentimentality.
I think the most dismaying part of this whole production is the sense it has of the inherent humor in making fun of anyone who's the least bit physically outside the norm. The gang's old basketball rivals are fat now! Schneider's wife is old! That guy's eyes are crossed! Kevin James is fat! Schneider's daughter is ugly! That guy at the pool has a high-pitched voice! Rock's mother-in-law is fat and has ugly feet! Salma Hayek speaks Spanish! There's actually a moment where Hayek curses at a sewing machine and Maya Rudolph says "I think she said 'Chiquita boniqua bueno andele!'", or some such nonsense, and everyone has a good laugh. Why not just go all the way and have someone yell "Ching chong bing bong!" at Sandler's Chinese nanny while we're at it?
On top of being mean-spirited, the movie also throws on generous portions of obnoxious gross-out humor which any "grown-up" will be put off by. There's implied dogfucking, characters who trip and fall face-first into shit, breast milk being sprayed across the room into a woman's face (she says "Hey, that doesn't taste too bad"), old ladies who fart a lot, Steve Buscemi in a full-body cast, the mingling of human ashes with fried chicken, a few kicks to the groin, and, perhaps most inexplicably, a glimpse of Dan Patrick's asscrack at a water park. Yes, Dan Patrick of ESPN. As a waterpark employee. Who gets the mother of all wedgies. A lot of this stuff just doesn't make any fucking sense at all; there's a point where Hayek storms out of a bathroom with a paper seat cover attached to her ass. On the outside of her dress. How in the fuck is that possible? Was she peeing through her pants?
In between all this dire, shitty awfulness, characters of course have to Learn Lessons, so we're never more than ten minutes away from some kind of Touching Moment or Inspirational Speech. Oh no, Hayek lets slip to her daughter that she's the tooth fairy? Time for a heartfelt confession and a strengthening of bonds! Rock feels unappreciated by his wife? Talk it out and hug! I mean, there's "maudlin", and then there's "Sandler's daughter wrecks his car because she's trying to find Heaven on the navigation system so he can visit his old coach". It's worth pointing out the relentlessly weepy, melodramatic score by Rupert Gregson-Williams (the apparently less-talented brother of Harry) here; I know these movies call for overwrought music, but it's hard to think of a score more overdone and manipulative in recent memory.
I take notes when I watch movies, and two things pop out at me from my notebook here. The first is a note less than halfway through the movie, which reads "I feel myself dying", and the second is the laughmeter, which I intended to use to mark down any time I laughed out loud. I did not mark a single instance during the course of watching Grown Ups . That, in the end, is the sentence of this review that probably matters most: despite the numerous attempts at wringing mirth from my ashen heart, I did not laugh a single time while watching this film. It is a lazy, putrid film that fails at the thing it attempts to do the hardest, and in fact manages to insult more than amuse. It's kind of fitting that this is what Sandler, America's perpetual man-child, thinks of when he titles a movie Grown Ups. People who are actual Adults, or intelligent film-goers of any age, are encouraged to stay far away from this shit stain of a movie.