Based on an original story by Adam Sandler and former Saturday Night Live writer Fred Wolf, Grown Ups contains not a single imaginative minute. 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 his fellow SNL alum, with King of Queens star Kevin James gamely filling in for the late Chris Farley, spend so much time laughing at their own jokes, we might reasonably suspect something funny is afoot. Just 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.
EXTRAS for DVD owners include a standard making-of featurette, a blooper reel and raw footage of the cast joking around away from the cameras. Blu-ray owners get deleted scenes, audio commentary from director Dennis Dugan and three additional shorts, including The Lost Tapes of Norm MacDonald, in which the SNL vet talks about reuniting with old castmates, and a three-minute feature starring Gary Busey and a monkey.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
At 40, Simon Pegg is too old to play Scott Pilgrim, the painfully ordinary 22-year-old bassist of the fledgling garage-rock trio Sex Bob-omb. On the rebound from being painfully dumped, Scott attracts an effusive “Scottaholic” in high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), but remains largely adrift. For all his affectations, he’s an aimless schlub.
In other words, he’s a younger, leaner version of the working-class layabout Pegg played in Edgar Wright’s riotous zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004). Pegg is livelier than Michael Cera, who plays Scott as a reluctant, deer-in-the-headlights hero, and one wonders how Pilgrim might have played with a more adventurous lead.
As it is, the movie, adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels, is hardly wanting for energy. It is a bold, brilliant spectacle, an offbeat romance patterned after a Street Fighter-style video game. To earn the heart of his devastatingly unattainable dream girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the lamb-like Scott must battle her Seven Evil Exes, a persistent pack of snarling wolves.
His limited range aside, Cera is, in some ways, a perfect fit for the part, bewildered by the tests he is put to, but invigorated by his flirtation with manhood and hard-fought victories over stronger, more self-assured rivals including Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) and Chris Evans (Fantastic Four).
Wright, who co-wrote the screenplay, deftly makes light of Scott’s trials, as do Scott’s sister (Anna Kendrick) and his sharply observant roommate (Kieran Culkin), who function as a sarcastic Greek chorus. Clueless though Scott may be, his friends always know the score.
So do we, thanks to Wright, who takes his game to another level here, giving Scott’s adventures the innovative look and electrifying feel of a graphic novel brought to life. Awash with stylistic flourishes and exhilarating, animé-inspired skirmishes, Pilgrim finds the director driven by lunatic inspiration, his inventive spirit never fatigued.
EXTRAS include an alternate ending, Wright's revealing commentary, and an impressive collection of deleted scenes that could have easily made the final cut.