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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Grown Ups

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Grown Ups

I can’t think of a good reason for this film’s title, unless you’re looking for the opposite of what you’ll encounter. Immaturity commands enough screen time to receive top billing.

The film’s chock-full of SNL alumni from various seasons so there’s plenty of comedy potential that unfortunately gets buried in crass, stereotypical, insulting and downright cruel quips and gags. Toilet humor, check. Sexism, check. Ageism, check. Women reduced to body parts, double check.

Meaningful message, eahhhhhhhhh! That’s supposed to be the sound of an annoying buzzer, as in – WRONG!

The film actually starts with a buzzer, which ends a middle school championship basketball game that five friends help win. Lenny (Adam Sandler), Eric (Kevin James) Kurt (Chris Rock) Marcus (David Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider) give St. Mark’s and Coach Bobby “Buzzer” Ferdinando the only championship in the school’s history.

Fast forward thirty years and Lenny is now a hotshot Hollywood agent with three obnoxious kids, a glamorous fashion designer wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) and a nanny named Rita (Di Quon) that his kids text when they want something. Lenny knows something is amiss, a rare moment of insight.

With the news of Coach “Buzzer’s” upcoming funeral, Lenny gets the old gang together, complete with wives, kids, one dog and one mother-in-law for a weekend retreat where the five friends plan to scatter the coach’s ashes privately while getting their kids to discover outdoor activities (instead of their usual blood-soaked, mayhem-filled video games).

The guys are all over the board socially and financially. Eric is a successful company co-owner who shows up a Cadillac convertible. The dog – and two kids - are his. Kurt is a house husband, fretting over pumpkin risotto and verbally sparring with his abrasive mother-in-law Mama Ronzoni (Ebony Jo-Ann); he’s got two kids and one on the way.

Rob is a New Age practitioner who’s found his soul mate in his geriatric third wife; he’s got three grown daughters. Marcus, called “Higgy” by his pals, is the bachelor stoner who has managed to evade any real responsibility for most of his life. No kids, no wife; just the smartass voice of freedom (and loneliness gone bitter).

Aside from Roxanne, the guys’ marital partners consist of Eric’s wife Sally, (Maria Bello), who still breastfeeds her four-year-old son in public, Rob’s wife Gloria, (Joyce Van Patten) who is several decades older than her husband, and Kurt’s wife Deanne, (Maya Rudolph) a hugely pregnant executive and family bread winner.

The stage is set for tasteless jokes of all kinds as the plot devolves into a series of one-note gags (aptly named because there’s lots of toilet humor) and mean-spirited comments over women (looks matter, especially if Girls Gone Wild types are your cup of tea). Don’t dare make the mistake of appearing average or heaven forbid – old! Not if you’re a woman. The film makes very clear what men find hot – and not - at least according to Sandler and Co.

T & A is introduced via Rob’s two grown daughters Jasmine (Madison Riley) and Amber (Jamie Chung). A third daughter Bridget (Ashley Loren) is terribly dissed for not having her sisters’ porn-star looks.

Poor Gloria is savaged at every turn for daring to age, even though she is a kind, caring woman who makes Rob happy. Obviously that is irrelevant; if you’re not fit to be a Frederick’s of Hollywood model, simply resign yourself to a life of celibacy. Nice bunch of guys, right?

The five friends commence with hijinx like shooting arrows straight up into the air, ogling women, introducing bodily fluids into a pool (guess) and playing a frat boy prank on Marcus.

A tiny side plot involves rivals Dickie (Colin Quinn), Malcolm (Tim Meadows) and Wiley (Steve Buscemi) among others, who still insist that the championship won by the five friends was unfair; a rematch is scheduled. You know the drill, but it won’t matter much.

Adam Sandler, whose company, Happy Madison produced the film, co-wrote the script with Fred Wolf (Joe Dirt) and portrays Lenny as the anchor of the group, a kind of voice of reason and level-headedness. That just means he doesn’t make as many cruel comments as the rest of the Neanderthals.

Salma Hayek seems dreadfully out of place in this low-brow farce, exuding a glamour that doesn’t lend itself to the snickering, adolescent regressions that surround her. Maria Bello, reduced to a milk machine, has never been so marginalized in a role. And poor Joyce Van Patten endures constant verbal body-slams from the male characters, none of whom come close to qualifying as Calvin Klein underwear models themselves.

Kevin James (slimmer here than in his King of Queens days) has to endure fat jokes; Chris Rock takes hits for being domestic.

Written by men for men, (and only certain types of men) – straight, horny, porn loving, objectifying men; prank-playing, thoughtless, thrill-seeking, trash talking men; men who think it’s great to show their kids how to cut in line, there’s not so much a message as a mess to impart to the viewer.

Director Dennis Dugan (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) gleefully depicts each misstep and malicious moment in a manner which normalizes cruelty and shallow, superficial value judgments. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, after all. Women must be centerfold-grade to be desirable. Older women should not exist at all; they’re gross. The pity is that millions of seventh-grade boys would agree, especially since the grown ups who made the film and are supposed to know better, said so.

A more appropriate title would have been Eternal Crassness of the Lowbrow Mind; or at least Groan Ops.