Maybe the summer swelter is melting my brain, but Adam Sandler and four other showboats desperately needing a hit had me laughing at Grown Ups more than expected.
Let's give credit where credit is due. It's not the heat; it's the stupidity.
Grown Ups is everything that a payday among comedian friends will be: Not much of a stretch beyond the goofy personas that made them famous, improvised at times to a fault. The movie was obviously a ball to make. The thing is: That feeling is contagious for about an hour, which is long enough to overlook the third act's flop sweat.
Grown Ups stars a Mount Rushmore of mocking comedy — Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Kevin James — with molehill Rob Schneider on the side. They play lifelong pals clinging to memories of winning a youth basketball championship 35 years ago. The team celebrated at a luxurious lake house, doing woodsy things that kids do. When their beloved coach dies, the team and their loved ones reunite at the lake for Fourth of July.
Characters are outlined in the first 10 minutes and barely change. Lenny (Sandler) is a successful Hollywood agent whose wife (Salma Hayek) wants to ditch the reunion and fly to Milan for fashion week. Kurt (Rock) is a Mr. Mom, keeping a tidy home for his pregnant, working wife (Maya Rudolph).
Eric (James) is self-conscious about his weight, with a wife (Maria Bello) still breast-feeding their 4-year-old son. Rob (Schneider) is a New Age nerd with a bad toupee and a lover (Joyce Van Patten) nearly twice his age. The lone bachelor is smarmy Marcus (Spade), and it's easy to see why.
Despite its setting, Grown Ups doesn't play many of the usual outdoor pratfalls (James' rope-swing mishap aside). I'm happy to report that not a single actor is attacked by a forest critter or sinks a canoe. Sandler and co-writer Fred Wolf get creative with a funny game called arrow roulette that no one should try at home, and cooking bacon on a bug zapper, which maybe you could.
The movie also contains its unfair share of coasting comedy: Hayek with toilet tissue stuck to her shapely derriere, a flatulent granny (Ebony Jo-Ann) and two — count 'em, two — O.J. Simpson jokes. There's also the big game that wraps up most wilderness romps, although Grown Ups gets extra credit for employing a basketball rematch rather than a camp competition.
What kept me laughing is the genuine camaraderie among Sandler's posse, the way they almost play themselves that perfectly suits this slim material. Their conversations as characters sound like smack talk among one-upping pals, with nothing off-limits. Often when comedian buddies make movies together, the results are terribly inside jokes, not the least of which is that they're being paid to loaf. Grown Ups lets us in on that gag, and occasionally makes it work.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.