The greatest comedies of all time have that spark between its actors that can’t be written or coaxed, it can only be captured through the performances.
While serious actors in dramatic films are usually the ones collecting accolades around awards season, comedic actors are often left on the sidelines having their performances overlooked. Anyone who says comedy is easy hasn’t tried it. Just ask the stars of Grown Ups, which brings together a dream team of veteran comics who know how to do comedy right. The Judd Apatow-style comedy that has monopolized Hollywood for the last few years is entertaining in its own right, but the cast of Grown Ups have something the stars of Superbad or Get Him to the Greek will never have: chemistry and authenticity.
The greatest comedies of all time have that spark between its actors that can’t be written or coaxed, it can only be captured through the performances; look at Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in The Producers or Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. The problem with Apatow and Co. is that, while often hilarious, the actors are so easily interchangeable once that style of comedy is mastered. In Grown Ups, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock, and Rob Schneider are all believable as childhood friends because of how organic the banter and insults feel. Granted, four of the five worked together on Saturday Night Live for several years, but the natural rhythm of their performances comes from their willingness to trust one another.
In the movie, the five friends reunite for the funeral of their childhood basketball coach. Lenny (Sandler) is a successful Hollywood agent whose two sons are the epitome of conspicuous consumption. Eric (James) and his wife, Sally (Maria Bello), have a daughter who refuses to listen to the word “no” and a four-year-old son who is still breast feeding. Kurt (Rock) is a browbeaten house-husband whose wife, Deanne (Maya Rudolph), is the breadwinner of the family. Marcus (Spade) is the obligatory philanderer with no wife or children. And Rob (Schneider) is a holistic healer who is into older women…much older women.
When the friends come together for the first time, the mockery and joking feels natural like it would for five grown men who easily fall back into their routines and roles despite having not seen each other for several years. The movie’s antics take place over the Fourth of July weekend as the men and their families take over the lake house that was the site of so many boyhood memories. The changes that the men and their families go through feel fluid and unforced which makes the movie that much more enjoyable. The movie isn’t so much about growing up as it is about remembering how to be a kid.
Sandler, who co-wrote the script with Fred Wolf, is endearing as Lenny, who just wants his sons to be normal kids who don’t text their nanny or request sparkling water at a diner. His is the only truly developed storyline, for obvious reasons, but it almost doesn’t matter. It’s just so much fun to watch these men forget that they’re adults and make fools of themselves over and over again. The supporting women (Rudolph, Bello, and Salma Hayek) do a decent job keeping up with the guys, but the men are really the focus of the show.
Without a doubt, Grown Ups is a solid comedy that will make you literally LOL and will hopefully encourage you to ditch the cell phone and go play outside. | Matthew F. Newlin