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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Grown Ups

Adam Sandler likes to spread himself around. These days most stars only make one kind of film (A Russell Crowe film is pretty much the same thing every time), but Sandler – much like Will Smith, who’s his only rival when it comes to box office draw at the moment - has two or three fanbases on the go at once. Which makes reviewing his films a bit trickier than most: there’s no point slagging off a Sandler film for being a touchy-feely family comedy when that’s what he set out to make, even if you happen to think his edgier comedies are what he does best.

So to set things out clearly, this is not a Sandler movie where he plays an idiot manchild (Little Nicky, The Waterboy), nor is it a Sandler movie where he goes flat-out for laughs (Happy Gilmore, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan), nor is it a Sandler movie where he takes things a little seriously and reveals himself to be a pretty good actor (Punchdrunk Love, Funny People). This is one of those Sandler movies where he plays a nice guy, the story is usually about family and the importance thereof, there’s a couple of moments that are supposed to be kind of touching, and the whole thing can be wrapped up in a nice bow with “heart-warming” written on it. If you don’t like those kind of Sandler movies, get out now: there’s nothing for you here.

You might think having a cast made of up Sandler’s comedy buddies – David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James, all firmly in their comedy comfort zones (only Rock is trying something different as a henpecked husband) – would push things down the funny end of the scale, and there is a fair amount of seemingly improvised riffing / ragging on each other here. There’s just nothing else: after the death of their high school basketball coach, the five grown-up (geddit?) members of the team are reunited for his funeral. As they’re seemingly the only people in their dead coach’s life, they stick around at a lakehouse to scatter his ashes and just… hang out.

Occasionally a glimmer of a storyline will pop-up, but they never go anywhere: the only real development is that Sandler’s snooty kids (he’s a ultra-wealthy Hollywood agent) learn to play outside. Sandler’s too canny a player to make a film but forget to make it about anything: presumably there’s a market for movies where you just get to spend a weekend with Sandler and his buddies doing not much for close to two hours.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #478)

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