By Gary Murray
Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin Smith, David
Spade, Rob Schneider, Chris
Rock and Salma Hayek Pinault and Maria Bello Written by Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Adam Sandler is one of the most famous comics to have come from SNL. Over the years, he has consistently given his audience a uniform product. Films like The Water Boy, Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison have taken command at the box office. Every once in a while he delivers a performance like in Funny People or The Wedding Singer that gets critical notice. Mostly he just makes silly, crude adult roughhouse comedies. His latest is a faux family feel good flick called Grownups. The film starts back in the 1970's with five young boys playing basketball in a championship game. By working together they win. At their honoring banquet held at a lake house, the coach praises the boys and hopes that they will always remember to be a team. He wants the boys to play life like they played the game, with no regrets. Flash forward 30 years and all the guys are grown men with families. Lenny (Adam Sandler) is a successful Hollywood agent with a high fashion designer wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek Pinault) and three very high maintance kids. He finds out about the death of his beloved coach and decides to take the family back to New England for the funeral. Once there he reunites with the team. Kurt (Chris Rock) has become a house husband with a demanding wife (Maya Rudolph). Eric (Kevin James) runs a furniture company and has a large brood of a family and a loving wife Sally (Maria Bello). Rob (Rob Schneider) has gone 'new age' with a much older partner and estranged kids from all his former marriages. Finally there is Marcus (David Spade) our man-child, still single and chasing young women. Lenny rents the lake house that was the backdrop for their honorary banquet. It is also the place where the coach's ashes are to be disbursed. The Feder family has plans to be in Milan, plans that Lenny secretly wants little part of. He has come to realize that his kids are not normal in the way he was brought and wants his kids to be kids. Exposing them to the families of all of his friends should nudge them in the right direction. He is so embarrassed by his wealth that he hides his nanny as an exchange student from China. But the other families are not much better. Rob has issues with both his toupee and how he has treated his former families, leaving some beautiful victims in his wake. Kurt is put-upon, getting no respect for either his kids or his wife's family. Eric just tries to put on airs, making his world as important as Lenny's. Finally Marcus knows that something is missing in his life, that element is a family. The film is a giant game of 'the grass is greener on the other side of the fence'. The single night in the cabin becomes a Independence Day weekend with all the different familial groups bond into a collective whole. We get rowing and playing in the lake, playing arrow roulette (funny dangerous idea), a big set piece of going to a water park and the inevitable rematch of the 30 year-old basketball game with rival team bringing their middle-age game to the floor. The five leads are all funny men and there are some humorous bits here and there, but the whole film never builds into anything solid. It is like eating Chinese food-you know that you had it, you just don't remember anything about it. Each take pot shots at the other, the way juveniles do, getting off some funny lines but I cannot remember any quip from any comic. The giant set piece at the water park seems like an excuse to get some young ladies in little bikinis. It is just as much a family film as Hooter's is a family restaurant. The guys reminiscence while trying to build those same kind of memories for their kids. The entire film comes across mostly hateful, even though it has some great performances. The kid cast is just wonderful, being both kids and fully thought-out secondary characters. They find a few places to get a laugh-line stealing from the titans around them. The single best element of the film is the soundtrack. It is filled with tracks from Cheap Trick and Journey, with a single song song by Adam for his dad. But the biggest chunk is given to the great J. Geils Band, a grooving little rock outfit that has never truly been given their dues. Grownups is a family film only in the fact that it concerns families. Imagine The Return of the Secaucus 7 but as a basketball/family movie. A dark underbelly bubbles below the surface, a hateful look on life. It does find a few moments to shine but it is mostly a weak summer entry.