Is It Just Me?... Or is Grown Ups an underrated gem?

One Total Film writer argues the case…

In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film writer Jamie Graham asks, ‘Is it just me? … or is Grown Ups an underrated gem?

Adam Sandler has made some stinkers. No argument there.

But the consensus that he’s made just two-and-a-half decent movies – The Wedding Singer, Punch-Drunk Love and the first half of Funny People – is plain wrong. Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, 50 First Dates, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan… all are decent, deserving of respect.

But it’s the movie that’s perhaps the most derided on his CV, 2010’s Grown Ups, that deserves not just respect but love, offering as it does laughs, chemistry, honesty and enough poignant themes to satisfy any open-minded viewer. I say ‘open-minded’ because a terrific amount of critical snobbery is wafted at Sandler’s films. “They shouldn’t be so easily dismissed,” said Paul Thomas Anderson when promoting Punch-Drunk Love in 2002, a film he wrote specifically for Sandler. “I really love them and I just cry with laughter.”

Asked why so few people outside Middle America share his opinion, Anderson cut through the bullshit: “I guess I was just paying attention.” If Grown Ups was a French movie (its tale of old friends having a reunion in the country and putting the world to rights through incessant chatter is, indeed, very French), you can bet critics would have paid attention.

OK, so maybe there would have been less fat gags and toilet gags and breast-milk gags, and it’s unlikely Mathieu Amalric would have made out with a shaggy, slobbering mutt, like David Spade does. But Grown Ups also offers credible insights into marriage, parenthood, class, friendship and city vs country, while its nostalgia for lost youth – and how youth is seemingly lost on the teens of today, with the kids in the movie favouring cell phones and computer games over the great outdoors – is quietly moving amid all the bellowing.

The pals who come together for their old basketball coach’s funeral are played by the aforementioned Sandler and Spade, plus Chris Rock, Kevin James and Rob Schneider. Critics’ Kryptonite, to be sure, and a cast list that saw Sandler face charges of nepotism and indulgence. But he was shrewd to populate his film with his best mates in the business, their history informing the characters’ banter. The producer/star also ransacked his own life for material. Playing a big-shot Hollywood agent with want-for-nothing kids meant that Sandler, who grew up in a working-class family, could dramatise his fear that his own children are spoilt LA brats, and that his oldest friends might now view him as too big for his britches/Armani suit. Some of the set-pieces, meanwhile, such as Kevin James falling from a rope swing, happened to Sandler himself.

In this way GU is to Sandler what Stand By Me is to Stephen King, and its personal touches lend truth and heart. With a strong female cast (Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph) and a tender climax cutting through the macho posturing, GU belongs as much to the tradition of reunion dramas like John Sayles’ The Return Of The Secaucus Seven and Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big 
Chill as it does to gross-out comedies.

Or is it just me? 

Agree or disagree? Have your say below and a selection of the comments will be printed in our next issue.


    • dex2010

      May 7th 2014, 16:35

      I agree! Very underrated!

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    • HolyMackerel

      May 7th 2014, 20:03

      My main complaint is to the distaste towards the end of Funny People. I liked it all, honestly.

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    • carlislejohnson

      May 8th 2014, 11:37

      Agreed! And no I'm not a Sandler fan by any stretch of the imagination. Despised Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Waterboy, 50 First Dates, You Dont Mess With The Zohan. However I did enjoy The Wedding Singer, Funny People, and then Grown Ups. I just found the whole Grown Ups experience surprisingly entertaining. Definitely got me laughing out loud. To be fair though, Grown Ups 2 is probably the worst attempt at comedy I've seen in the past 2 years. Weird that I have such a soft spot for part 1, but took me ages to get through part 2 without wanting to hurt myself in some way.

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    • Fozzy

      May 8th 2014, 12:26

      Yep it's just you. It's lazy, self-indulgnet, badly acted, badly paced and frankly awful. Still it made a lot of money so obviously a lot of people liked it. But I think that's down to familiarity with the characters themselves than any sort of quality of writing. With the exception of Adam Sadler (and maybe Chris Rock and Schneider), each actor is or has been at some point a staple of an average American Sitcom (turn on Comedy Central during the day on any weekday in particular and you'll know what I mean. All of these characters simply play themselves, so disparate fan-groups come together to watch them together. It's cynical marketing by Sandler and chums and yet another reason why happy Gilmore films need do to wake up something worthwhile again. Next thing you know they'll be releasing Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2....oh wait..

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    • Hadouken76

      May 9th 2014, 8:31

      Sandlers biggest crime is to keep comedy vacuum Rob Schneider in work.

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    • jaykays hat

      May 9th 2014, 13:03

      Thought it was really funny and was pleased they were doing a sequel..............until I watched the sequel and wished they hadn't.

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    • Ali1748

      May 10th 2014, 13:34

      Wow I never knew there was people out there who didn't like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison.

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