Saturday, June 26, 2010
Grown Ups (Dennis Dugan, 2010) -- C+
It takes a film like Grown Ups to reveal the snide, cold-hearted cynicism of film critics. All too happy to pile hatred onto a warm-hearted movie about rekindling childhood friendships, the silly crude humor and lack of conventional character drama aspirations offends the sensibilities of critics and viewers who must place themselves above the material in order to reaffirm their own self-importance. Fact is, Grown Ups is a film made for middle-class viewers, with pathos that resonate much stronger than faux-everyman comedies about middle-age like It’s Complicated, seeking to peddle a soured, materialist fantasy (Meryl Streep owns a mansion, but pouts about adding a bigger kitchen onto the house) that could not be more detached from any issues that actual human beings face. Vince Vaughn has been up to similar, unfairly dismissed work like Four Christmases and Couples Retreat, both films having genuine human compassion at their core rather than disdain. Sandler’s new effort may lack for inspired jokes or gags, but it compensates with its kind-heartedness, never devolving with mean-spirited jokes. Every character has a problem at some point and must confront his/her own inadequacies and insecurities in order to mature. Sandler’s films don’t get enough credit for their structure or style of humor, using quick, minimalist scenes or jokes to establish each individual and carrying those recurring gags throughout to allow both subversion and evolution in the joke. There’s no guilt or smugness about looks or bodies here, either. There’s sincerity about the pleasures of looking (the gang ogles Rob Schneider’s two hot daughters) and gags about his not-so-attractive daughter. The gag isn’t on the ugly chick, though, but Schneider’s awkward looks. Pleasantly, everyone meets each other with playful derision and there’s no imbalance of fun poking. Contrast this with something like The Hangover, a white male supremacist fantasy that features some of the most hate-filled, despicable characters in recent comedic memory. The jokes in Grown Ups may be tired, obvious and mostly fall-flat, but the underlying spirit is more important and, thus, it’s a likeable effort that shows the appreciable distance between more critically heralded, but less humane comedies.