They say you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, the same holds true for movies and their posters or home video packaging. Take the coming-of-age comedy 'Grown Ups' distributed by Sony for example. Just look at that cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider -- all reliable and well-loved comedians. Okay maybe not Rob Schneider, but that's beside the point. With such a diverse group of zany jokesters seemingly having the time of their lives, the latest entry from Sandler's Happy Madison Productions appears to be a surefire hit, a slam-dunk recipe for comic gold. And that's where looks can be deceiving, as the result is really a lazy, unfunny mess that somehow manages to sink its lowbrow just about as low as 'Little Nicky' -- if that's even humanly possible.
Lenny Feder (Sandler) is a rich forty-something Hollywood agent with a gorgeous fashion designer wife (Salma Hayek) and three kids spoiled well beyond the stage of rotten. One summer day, Lenny receives some tragic news -- his role model from childhood, Coach Buzzer (Blake Clark), has passed away. Back in 1978, Lenny's middle school basketball team won the one and only championship during Buzzer's reign and they have never forgotten their mentor's guidance to live the same way they played the game. Lenny's band of merry misfits include: Eric (James) -- an overweight lawn furniture businessman whose wife (Maria Bello) still breastfeeds their four-year-old son, Kurt (Rock) -- the stay-at-home dad who has two kids with Deanne (Maya Rudolph) and a third in the oven, Marcus (Spade) -- the self-proclaimed "philanderer" of the bunch, and Rob (Schneider) -- a triple-divorcee vegan with a fetish for babes of the geriatric variety. The funeral gives the five friends the opportunity to spend the 4th of July weekend together at the lake where they'll honor their fallen hero, reminisce about old times, and perhaps spread a little of Buzzer's spirit into the lives of their loved ones.
I realize comedy is subjective, but if we were to look up "phoning it in" in the dictionary there's no question we'd find the movie details for 'Grown Ups' plastered all over the page. Apparently Sandler co-wrote the script in the mid-nineties and had Chris Farley in mind for one of the film's five man-childs, but after Farley's untimely death the project was put on indefinite hiatus. Then Sandler teamed up with Kevin James in 2007 for 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry' and as fate would have it a replacement magnet for all of the fat jokes was found. While I can't say if the movie would have worked better say, fifteen years ago, now it just comes across as a regurgitation of the worst bits from past Sandler films. Most of the one-liners fall flat and the tacky gags are milked (some quite literally) to death. Between all the dogs and grandmothers farting and obese people falling off rope swings and collapsing above ground swimming pools, 'Grown Ups' is merely a forced rehash of every episode of 'America's Funniest Home Videos.'
The complete absence of humor is bad enough, and then things take a turn for the worse when the movie introduces a rival of Lenny's in Dickie (played by the worst anchor to ever host the Weekend Update segment in 'Saturday Night Live' history -- Colin Quinn). Dickie is a bully intent on getting a rematch as he believes Lenny was out of bounds when he scored the winning basket. His entourage consists of Steve Buscemi (that sole star is all his by the way), Tim Meadows, and a few other random caricatures that are so bland I won't even bother naming names. Obviously their inclusion is to give the main cast a challenge with the typical emotional and meaningful climax, except it's so heavy-handed and stupid that I really don't know what the hell they were thinking.
Director Dennis Dugan ('The Benchwarmers,' 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan') mentions in the bonus features that he considers 'Grown Ups' to be his "leisure room," his "vacation" of sorts from the grueling world of filmmaking. That, dear readers, pretty much sums up the film right there. This is him taking it easy? Are his other films that hard hitting?! The writing is stale, the jokes are stagnant, and Sandler and company don't do anything but lounge around entertaining themselves -- and nobody else.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony splashes 'Grown Ups' onto Blu-ray in two versions: this single disc edition as well as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack available for a few dollars more. This particular edition comes with a BD-50 Blu-ray Disc inside a standard blue keepcase. Before getting to the menu, home viewers will have to wade through a forced advertisement for Sony's 'Make.Believe' with some nameless teenager wearing Freddy Krueger's sweater, followed by a whopping five theatrical trailers for Sony films (the first five listed in the supplemental section below). The disc is also reported to be region free and therefore should function properly in any Blu-ray capable machine.
Sony has been fairly consistent delivering strong Blu-ray transfers, but I found the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) encode of 'Grown Ups' to be a letdown.
The colors are easily this presentation's strongest attribute, utilizing a very striking palette full of bright and vivid hues dominated by beautiful lush greenery around the lakeside resort. Contrast runs extremely hot, though, so whites can be overwhelmingly blinding, especially during scenes out under the July midday sun. It's so overpowering that sometimes eyes, noses, and mouths in faces almost seem to fade away, which makes some characters momentarily look like the Blank from 'Dick Tracy.' While black levels are reliably deep, crushing is frequent throughout. Skin tones also vary from orangey to pale, and fine detailing is pretty disappointing for a new release. Even close-ups severely lack the detail, definition, and dimensionality one would expect thanks to an excessively soft picture. Grain and noise are nowhere to be found, either, so DNR may be applied here, but on the plus side I didn't notice an overuse of artificial sharpening.
The short of it is the bad definitely outweighs the good in this one, and I really expected more.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks (in English, French, and Portuguese) are serviceable for a comedy, though they are front-heavy mixes.
The familiar rocking soundtrack that seems to reuse some of the tunes from other Sandler comedies acts as bookends to the dialogue, which comes through clean and stays front and center. Rear speaker activity is minimal at best, with only the odd bird chirping by the lake and a very light crowd ambience during the basketball games and water park scenes. Except for a bit of thumping accenting songs and a revved up boat motor, bass activity is pretty well nonexistent. Even so, this isn't really a terrible track for what it is, just don't expect it to give your home theatre a vigorous workout.
The disc also includes a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track, an English Audio Descriptive Service, as well as optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.
There are only two extras shared with the DVD release and the rest are all Blu-ray exclusive features.
To put it simply, when a movie is basically a cross between 'Old Dogs' and 'Couples Retreat' with even fewer laughs, something is terribly wrong. 'Grown Ups' is a complete waste of talent and time, the kind of sludge that just might actually give your Blu-ray player some sort of disease. The video on this disc is disappointing, the audio coasts by, and most of the supplements are just as worthless as the movie. So avoid this one like the plague and save yourself while you still can.