Apparently, comedian/actor Chris Rock, death, and comedy are a recipe for good comedic filmmaking. His Death at a Funeral is one example. Grown Ups is another. In it, five childhood buddies confront death and family life to comedic proportions.
In Grown Ups, Lenny (played by Adam Sandler), Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Rock), Marcus (David Spade), and Rob (Rob Schneider) descend on a small New England town for the funeral of their beloved basketball coach, Coach Buzzer (Blake Clark). It happens to be the Fourth of July weekend, so the five-some and their families rent a cabin by the lake for a four-day weekend.
Screenwriters Sandler and Fred Wolf showed how the grownups in the film still had more growing up to do; especially the men. And their children are all sheltered and way too pampered. The unconventional character development is a nice touch.
Kurt’s wife, Deanne (Maya Rudolf), is pregnant and bringing home the bacon to her househusband who’s a few bad meals away from a breakdown. Deanne’s mother, Mama Ronzoni (Ebony Jo-Ann), is mouthy and has an affinity for Italian food. Roxanne (Salma Hayek) is Lenny’s wife, who as a big-time fashion designer, got the cutest outfits of the film. Sally (Maria Bello), Eric’s wife, is still breast-feeding her four-year-old son. And, Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), Rob’s wife, brings the ick factor up a notch, just by the large age difference between herself and Rob.
Director Dennis Dugan really brought out the summer time atmosphere of the film; making the setting more like summer camp than a four-day weekend in a cabin. He also has a nice mix of actors. I would not have put those particular couples together, but they make it work.
The ensemble cast of Sandler, James, Rock, Spade, and Schneider are obviously great friends because it translates on screen. They really bring out the buddy in this buddy film.
Rudolf, Jo-Ann, Hayek, Bello, and even Van Patten are a tribe of their own. They are the feminine touch needed to cut the immaturity of their men. They are also the ones that seem to hold together the plot, as well as move it along.
Other actors of note are Di Quon, who plays Rita, Lenny and Roxanne’s nanny. Madison Riley, Jamie Chung and Ashley Loren play Rob’s hot daughters with just the right touch. Jake Goldberg, Cameron Boyce and Alexys Nycole Sanchez play Lenny and Roxanne’s kids with some Los Angeles spin; Sanchez being the cutest of the little stars.
Ada-nicole Sanger and Frank and Morgan Gingerich as Eric and Sally’s kids are simultaneously cute and annoying. And, let’s not forget Nadji Jeter and China Anne McClain of “House of Payne” fame as Kurt and Deanne’s kids, who should have gotten more screen time to flex their acting muscles.
It’s been a while since Sandler has made a comedy that was actually funny. Oddly enough, he picked death as a catalyst to get things moving. But, all in all, Grown Ups is a fun time at the movies and a great summer film to watch with your buddy.
Photo: Chris Rock