Every middle-aged Saturday Night Live alum grazing the wider pastures of Hollywood comes to a big decision: Do you follow the model of Steve Martin and his gaggle of sputum-seeping onscreen progeny and traipse into middlebrow mania? Or, like Bill Murray (and, to a lesser degree, the Mike Myers of The Love Guru), do you pursue your muse even further into go-it-alone weirdness? Adam Sandler may have made his choice. After flirting with some fascinating sourness in Judd Apatow’s Funny People, he’s ready to sweeten up a bit; Grown Ups, a benignly crude slice of family hysteria, reunites him with ex-SNLers Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider (plus obligatory chubster Kevin James), as former 12-year-old basketball teammates drawn together decades later when their coach kicks the bucket.
Back to their old summer lodge they go, along with several impossibly attractive wives—the breast-feeding Maria Bello; a quietly dominating Maya Rudolph; high-strung fashionista Salma Hayek Pinault (who?)—plus a swarm of carefully written kids destined to wise up in the great outdoors. No viewer goes into this movie expecting John Cassavetes’s Husbands, least of all from soft-serve director Denis Dugan (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan). But would it have been such a crushing blow to these stars’ egos if they accommodated a little honest anxiety, instead of the typical lake-rope-swinging mishaps and an inevitable Steve Buscemi cameo? Telegraphed down to the final shot of its hoops climax, Grown Ups suggests a mask being torn off to reveal another one: the male fantasy of cheerleader spouse, well-adjusted kids and expanding waistline, all okey-dokey.—Joshua Rothkopf