'Grown Ups' that are anything but

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010; 4:18 PM

Wait, is this the right movie? "Grown Ups," a summer male-bonding comedy starring Adam Sandler, purports to be about a successful man in his 40s dealing with rue and regret with bittersweet laughs and maybe a few tears along the way. But that's what Sandler did in last summer's "Funny People," which was a whole lot funnier and about actual, recognizable human people.

What a difference a year makes. "Grown Ups" finds Sandler reverting to lunkheaded, lazy-laff form as a Hollywood super-agent named Lenny who reunites with his childhood friends after the funeral of their revered basketball coach. The lineup:

There's Eric (Kevin James), the fat-joke target who makes his screen entrance by breaking the side of an inflatable pool and unleashing a backyard tsunami, drives a Cadillac and has a pretty wife (Maria Bello) who still breast-feeds their 4-year-old son. Kurt (Chris Rock) is a househusband married to a tart-tongued career woman (Maya Rudolph); Rob (Rob Schneider) is a New Age massage therapist married to a much older woman (Joyce Van Patten); and Marcus (David Spade) is the group's skeevy-looking Peter Pan, who has a dirty aside or bitter put-down for every occasion.

With its lame, guys-doing-guy-stuff humor, "Grown Ups" resembles the bro-centric action picture "The A-Team," except that nothing blows up -- unless you count a flatulent mother-in-law (which is only one of several sexist jokes that immediately wear thin). And if you find that hilarious, you'll just love stunts involving James flying head-first into a tree, Spade falling head-first into a pile of mud and an arrow going head-first into Schneider's foot. (Oh, and Steve Buscemi shows up to slam head-first into a wall, resulting in several shots of him in a body cast.)

From each obvious setup to its hoary payoff, "Grown Ups" hews faithfully to its formula, which is concocted mostly as a way for Sandler's alter ego to have his cake and eat it, in the form of reveling in his material success while taking a few moments to question his own values. (He even gets the prettiest girl: Salma Hayek plays his wife, looking as if she's desperately seeking the set of "30 Rock" to do some real comedy.)

After the requisite insults, slapstick sight gags and male ogling -- especially after two comely 20-somethings show up -- "Grown Ups" ends with a tiresome grudge match on the basketball court, in which Lenny Teaches Everyone a Lesson in What Really Matters. In its own hackneyed way, the scene perfectly sums up just how smug and self-congratulatory the movie has been all along.

* PG-13. At area theaters. Contains crude material, including suggestive references, profanity and male rear nudity. 98 minutes.

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