"Grown Ups" only arrived in theaters Friday (June 25), but we've seen this all before: Adam Sandler fully embodying his schlubby-jokester shtick, surrounded by friends from his "Saturday Night Live" days and his earlier films, under the direction of a guy who's helmed no less than five Sandler flicks (with a sixth just wrapped and a seventh already in the works).
By this point, 15 years after "Billy Madison" and as Sandler has matured from frenetic man-child to fatherly do-gooder, you either embrace what the crew delivers to the big screen or your don't — and when it comes to "Grown Ups," most critics seem to find they don't. Yet the film is on track to reel in between $30 million and $40 million this weekend, so clearly there's a wide divide between reviewers and the moviegoing public they seek to inform.
What will you think about this film that has Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider meeting up at a childhood lake house to rediscover the youthful enthusiasm they've lost over the years? The only way to find out, of course, is to hit the theaters. And before you do, here is what the critics have to say.
"What kept me laughing is the genuine camaraderie among Sandler's posse, the way they almost play themselves that perfectly suits this slim material," wrote Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times. "Their conversations as characters sound like smack talk among one-upping pals, with nothing off-limits. Often when comedian buddies make movies together, the results are terribly inside jokes, not the least of which is that they're being paid to loaf. 'Grown Ups' lets us in on that gag, and occasionally makes it work."
There's no doubting there are laughs to be had in the film, but Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune was left wishing the laughs had come more often. "I love to laugh, loud and long and clear, just like Ed Wynn in 'Mary Poppins,' " he wrote. "It's just that 'Grown Ups' director Dennis Dugan, a frequent Sandler collaborator, is such a dang lunkhead when it comes to slapstick. On the crudest possible level he lands the punch lines often enough to please the folks and make the money, so there's no fiscal incentive for him to change a thing about his directorial approach to anything, really. But if he ever learns to sustain a shot and build a joke visually within the frame, rather than slamming it together in the edit, he'll give us better comedies. I guar-an-tee it."
Of the five men, though, perhaps the most consistently laugh-inducing is Schneider. As the Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey said, "The surprise of the movie, and there aren't many, is Schneider. He plays completely against type as a New Age philosopher-massage therapist in a May-December relationship where he's May and the most sensitive, restrained one of the bunch with nary a cutting remark. Except for the very bad toupee, the whole renaissance man thing is a good look on Schneider, though it also means he bears the brunt of the good humor boys."
"Say this for 'Grown Ups': Its heart is in the right place," said Scott Bowles of the USA Today. "The actors seem genuinely fond of one another, and the message — don't pass up life's simple pleasures — suits its PG-13 rating. And the '80s soundtrack is spot-on. But it isn't enough to salvage this film. By the time we reach the finale (though it has a nice twist), it feels as if it's time to pack your bags and head home. Sandler may still have a hit on his hands. The actor's fans are as rabid as any, and he continues to churn out blockbusters, 'Funny People' notwithstanding. But if Sandler hopes to win over new fans, he may want to cork the scatological humor and let it age a bit."
We'll give Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times the final word: " 'Grown Ups' is a pleasant, genial, good-hearted, sometimes icky comedy that's like spending a weekend with well-meaning people you don't want to see again any time real soon. They're the kind of people where, in the car driving home, you ask, 'What was that all about?' Try to imagine the Three Stooges slapping each other's faces with dehydrated reconstituted bananas. No, really."
Check out everything we've got on "Grown Ups."
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