Confession: I sobbed several times during this movie. Confession: I love Adam Sandler’s brand of big-hearted buffoonery. Chances are, you’ve already decided, based on those two confessions, whether my four-out-of-five rating is worth taking seriously.
Most critics pasted this movie. I wonder if they’d already decided to hate it before they took their seats. The audience I watched it with laughed the entire way through, and they left with big grins on their faces. I don’t know how many of them sobbed during the schmaltzy bits. Lots of them, I hope.
Grown-Ups is a comedy about growing up— or not growing up. I feared it might be nothing more than a middle-aged madcap. But there’s a lot more to this film than pratfalls—though there’s plenty of those. The writers take a surprising number of characters and make them come alive pretty convincingly. They also made me care about them.
There’s the bigshot Hollywood agent, Adam Sandler himself, who feels embarrassed by his own success and distressed at seeing his young sons turning into selfish, spoiled brats; there’s Rob Schneider as a not-terribly-Zen tree-hugger, married to a much older woman; there’s Chris Rock as a hen-pecked house-husband; there’s Kevin James as the rather hapless father of a four-year-old boy who still breast-feeds; there’s David Spade as a stuck-in-time slacker; and there are a whole slew of wives and children. I think this film at least deserves kudos for its ambitiously large cast, and for the fact that all the characters are given a decent amount of time and development.
From the opening scene where we see the five central characters as kids, winning a basketball trophy together, I suspected I would end up blubbering at some point. When I saw their coach impelling them, at the victory reception, to give life their all so that they would have no regrets when the final buzzer honked—well, then I knew I would end up blubbering at some point. Sue me, I’m a sentimentalist
Charged with the scattering of their dead coach’s ashes, the friends and their families end up spending the entire weekend together, at a lake house near their childhood homes. Of course, they can’t resist resuming their old occupations; ragging each other constantly, swinging from trees, and playing a nutty game called “arrow roulette”—which involves shooting an arrow into the air and seeing who can stand his ground the longest. They also have to endure the jibes of the guys they beat in the basketball tournament, who haven’t moved away, haven’t got over the defeat, and keep pushing for a rematch. No prizes for guessing the movie’s climax, then.
The most touching parts of the film focus on the relationship between the generatons. At one point Adam Sandler’s character, Lenny, watches his son through a window, quietly willing him to throw the stone he’s picked up from the edge of a lake. He knows that the boy will discover, in the simple sight of splashing lakewater, something he can never find in his video games and affluent lifestyle. Unseen and unheard, he urges his son to throw the stone at the lake, at his brother, at his own head. The child—who holds the stone gingerishly, as though it’s a piece of moon rock—eventually drops it to the ground.
And if you think the film will leave it at at that, and that its gang of forty-something boys won’t manage to teach their own kids the meaning of childhood, then you have no faith in human nature. Or, at least, no faith in movies..