I forget where I heard this saying, but it supposedly goes that the more the stars of a film are out doing publicity for it (or no publicity at all), it usually means the film is likely a turd. And while I was taking care of my wife who was recovering from surgery over the summer, I saw the stars of Grown Ups everywhere. In morning shows, on talk shows, on a cooking show or two, I even saw them in between World Cup games on ESPN, for Pete's sake. And yet the film went on to make more than $150 million in North American box office money, proving once again that the United States really has lost its way as a country.
Fred Wolf co-wrote the screenplay with Adam Sandler, (Funny People). Sandler also stars in the film with Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Chris Rock (Death at a Funeral) , David Spade (The Benchwarmers) and Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo). The quintet plays a group of lifelong friends since childhood, and gained notoriety for their prowess in basketball. They all kept in touch with their coach and with one another through the years, as they became fathers, husbands and the like. When the coach dies, the group reunites to both mourn and reminisce, and share where each other is in life at this particular point.
Directed by Dennis Dugan (You Don't Mess With the Zohan), you would think that with four kind of funny people (and Schneider) the film couldn't miss in the laughs department, but boy this thing couldn't find funny if it was given a GPS and a set of car keys to a clown college. We get jokes about Spade's character because he's a single guy who's really depressed that he's single, we get more jokes about James because he's fat, we get, well no jokes from Rock, and we get the same thing from Schneider for that matter, but the latter is trying, which makes it worse. And I am still trying to figure out just what it was that Sandler was doing in the film. Maybe it's a matter of him wanting to recreate The Big Chill, with each of the characters getting their respective moments as an adult, but the problem is said characters don't nearly have the chops to pull this off comedically much less dramatically, and the product suffers as a result.
Aside from this film serving as a 102-minute exercise is unfunny jokes and stilted storylines, at least the group's wives (from a casting perspective) are a minor surprise. Cast as Sandler's wife is Salma Hayek (Cirque du Freak), while James's wife is Maria Bello (World Trade Center). While not really known for their comedic chops, they avail themselves well next to their "husbands." On the other side, Maya Rudolph is both a former Saturday Night Live cast member and is involved with acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson, but in this film she, like Rock, both go wasted.
What's an even bigger pain and the biggest problem I have with Grown Ups is in the bonus material. Whenever you get old friends around a common area together, the impulse to make fun of one another is irresistible, and these guys do it in spades. The sad part is they don't do it here, and they sure didn't do it in their summer of media oversaturation. A ton of people decided they had to go see it in the theaters. Congratulations world, Messrs. Sandler, James, Rock, Spade and Schneider will show up on every television channel again in the near future.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Grown Ups comes to home theater audiences in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 high definition widescreen presentation that's a straightforward presentation of the many times I saw clips of the film on television. Flesh tones are reproduced well and look natural without any red or orange push, background image detail isn't too bad, but foreground detail is lacking. And what's with pushing more lights into daytime shots? Let them be, man. All in all the film looks good on Blu-ray, but I wouldn't call it an award winner anytime soon.
The film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track didn't work and play well on my Oppo unit (a cautious note for owners), as it blared the soundtrack and then put out sporadic bouts of static. But on my other player, it worked fine. Dialogue is consistent and balanced in the front channels and is replicated accurately and any thuds or crashes tend to bring a bit of low-end power to them. The great outdoors sounds immersive when required, with environmental effects clear and well placed. It's not a sonic dynamo, but does what's expected of it.
Things start with a commentary by Dugan that has a fair share of recollection about the production. It also includes a mix of anecdotal stories about the stars and specific production information. For those of you left that are fans of the film, you'll probably enjoy it. Ten outtakes/deleted scenes are up next (10:15), and they include some bloopers of Randolph, while Sandler tries to shoot a basketball blindfolded. The deleted scenes don't really add anything to the feature, for what it's worth. "Laughing Is Contagious" (4:08) has some in between take jabs and puns that appear to be woven into an EPK of sorts talking about the film, though they're mildly boring. The gag reel (3:49) includes none, while the "Riff O' Rama" (4:37) has the alternate lines and jokes between the actors that are funnier than the film itself. Schneider gets the most benefit in this area. "Dennis Dugan: Hands on Director" (4:38) shows Dugan bouncing around the set, along with what the actors think of him.
Next is "The Lost Takes of Norm MacDonald (6:46), where the underappreciated (and supremely awesome) comic shares his thoughts on the film and we see some of his scenes in it. "The Cast of Grown Ups" (7:08) is where the cast shares their opinions about one another, and Dugan chips in with his two cents as well. There's also some more bloopers and alternate lines here. "Busey and the Monkey" (3:24) is an apparent abandoned scene with a monkey and, well, Gary Busey. The movie also has the "MovieIQ" subtitled function as most current Sony titles do, and there's a second disc that includes a standard definition copy of the film along with a digital copy for download and consumption.
To put it bluntly, even with Rob Schneider and Kevin James in it, Grown Ups could have been much funnier and was apparently a far more enjoyable project in intentions. When executed things just go to pot, with a story that loses its focus and tries to balance stupid laughs at the same time, which isn't a good combination for anyone. Technically, it's not spectacular though from an extras perspective at least there's some genuine laughing here, but don't waste your time.