Making the Grades
Lenny Fender (Adam Sandler) appears to have the perfect life. The high-powered Hollywood agent has a beautiful, fashion designer wife (Salma Hayek), three children (Jake Goldberg, Cameron Boyce, Alexys Nycole Sanchez) and enough money to keep him comfortable for a long time. Yet the wealthy businessman worries his success is having a negative impact on his children who spend hours playing violent video games and would rather text their nanny (Di Ouon) than get off the couch to help themselves. Watching their spoiled antics, Lenny longs to give his kids a taste of the simple pleasures he enjoyed as a child.
The opportunity to do so arises when Lenny receives a phone call about the death of his former basketball coach (Blake Clark). Postponing their trip to Milan, Lenny and his clan meet up with his old teammates Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (David Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider) and their families for their coach’s funeral. Then they plan to follow it up with a Forth of July weekend at a lakeside cabin.
Though the former friends have all aged since their 1970s championship basketball season, they haven’t necessarily matured. Their juvenile sexual banter, name-calling and trash talk start even before they are seated for the funeral service. As old rivalries resurface they revert to childish behaviors and engage in the same silly dares they played as adolescents. Their locker room mentality also results in frequent sexual innuendo that includes the depiction of male rear nudity and the ongoing ogling of the opposite gender. Breastfeeding, bikinis and car problems are also played for humor, along with a relationship between Rob and his much older wife (Joyce Van Patten).
The script, if there is one, loosely connects a parade of short, stand-up comedy-like vignettes that this troupe of entertainers pulls off with ease, given their combined experience on the stage. While the pacing is often good, the crudity and predictability of the jokes along with an overdose of drunkenness, slapstick violence (groin kicks, hitting, injury-causing dares) and bathroom humor overwhelm what could have been an insightful look at childhood in a technological world.
Reprising his"aw shucks” nice guy role from films like Bedtime Stories, 50 First Dates and Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler once again wraps up this story with a warm and sappy happy ending. Rising above the pettiness of competition, he teaches his teammates and children a valuable lesson about winning and losing. (One that is spelled out for audience members who may have missed it.) But even the feel good moments won’t dispel the impression that while these adults may be getting older, they are anything but grown up.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Grown Ups.
Why is Lenny concerned about his children’s behaviors? Why do his kids have less opportunity to participate in outdoor or unscheduled activities than he did?
In what behaviors do these characters still resemble their junior high selves? Are there ways that they have matured?