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Former ‘SNL’ Stars Reunite, with Mind-Numbing Results, in ‘Grown Ups’

If Will Forte’s MacGruber reminded us that five-minute Saturday Night Live sketches seem less than inspired when stretched to paper-thin feature length, Grown Ups, a nominal comedy starring SNL alumni Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider, is even more confounding.

Based on an original story by Sandler and former SNL writer Fred Wolf, the movie contains not a single imaginative minute, much less the five needed to kill time between late-night commercials. It is as lazily conceived as anything Sandler has done.

But it must have been a blast to make, judging by the fact that Sandler and company, joined here by King of Queens star Kevin James, spend so much time laughing at their own jokes that we might reasonably suspect something funny is afoot. (Try and find it.) Also present, presumably by choice, is a supporting cast featuring Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Steve Buscemi, who have carried movies more ambitious than this, and undoubtedly will do so again.

Since graduating from SNL in 1995, Sandler has surrounded himself with a core group of creative collaborators, most of them associated in one way or another with his five-year run as a Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time player. His loyalty is admirable, and one suspects he treats his movies as family reunions. Grown Ups is no exception.

Sandler’s characters can be off-putting, their comic flamboyance undercut by thinly veiled hostility, but Lenny Feder is a different breed. A devoted family man, he wants his kids to step away from the TV long enough to experience the world around them. To that end, he rents a seaside cottage in picturesque Marblehead, Massachusetts, with four of his oldest friends in tow.

What happens next is almost immaterial. There are moments of tender self-realization, as each of the men arrives at hard truths about their struggles to succeed in business and romance. But not for a second do any of these moments ring true. Rather, they seem like a cynical attempt to coat a movie obsessed with flatulence, urination, old age and obesity with a thin veneer of family-values sentimentality.

James, likely filling in for the late Chris Farley, gamely endures the fat jokes, with Ebony Jo-Ann (Pootie Tang) on hand to show off her bunions and break wind. Playing a mega-rich Hollywood agent, blessed with a deadly jump shot and a gorgeous wife, Sandler is, of course, spared such humiliation, probably because he co-wrote the script – a credit he would be wise not to claim.