Adam Sandler’s latest finds Donny Berger (Sandler) trying to reconnect with his son, Han Solo AKA Todd Peterson (Andy Samberg), as Peterson prepares to marry Jamie (Leighton Meester). Unfortunately, Berger forfeited his right to be in his son’s life, which is the result of a much older teacher seducing her teenage student. Now, the elder Berger needs to make $43,000 by the end of the weekend or face prison time, and his son appears to be the only way he can save himself. But will the movie unwind before the Bergers can find a common ground?
I watched this film thanks to the invitation of a local publicist, with a crowd of people who’d been invited in with free passes. It had only been a few months since I’d laughed hysterically (and guiltily) with a raucous crowd at 21 Jump Street. In literally the same seat, I sat through a mostly silent showing of the movie, where most of the volume came from quiet exclamations of “no, they didn’t” throughout. The overriding response was that the movie just wasn’t funny; Sandler’s comic raunchiness showed up, but his wit and social commentary were left behind.
You can probably map out the plot points, so I’ll spare you. It’s fun to watch Vanilla Ice cameo as a sidekick to the Bergers; Rex Ryan and Dan Patrick make the most of their cameos (which don’t have anything to do with their sports-related real lives). It’s shocking to see Susan Sarandon stoop to this, even if you remember her jaw-dropping turn in Bull Durham. The difference? That movie was sexually-charged, sometimes crude, and funny. This movie went for crude, hit the mark, and failed to capitalize on laughs.
I kept waiting, waiting as the host of cameos moved through. I waited as Ice, Patrick, Sarandon, Tony Orlando, Todd Bridges, and moonlighted, and Saturday Night Live stars Will Forte, Colin Quinn, Nick Swardson, Ana Gasteyer, and Rachel Dratch took their turns. I waited for the jokes about the grandma, played by Peggy Stewart, to become funny. But all I came up with was a rather pathetic feeling inside, where I wondered if the unlimited financial resources were reason enough for Sandler to water down his comic repetoire.
Having belly laughed with Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, I feel like I showed my age. Sandler tried for Judd Apatow territory but the rocket failed to fully take off. What instead happens is that Sandler tells a story about a father who failed early, fails late, and ultimately, brings his son down to his level. It’s not the feel good story one might’ve hoped for heading into Father’s Day weekend. Instead, it’s a reunion of Sandler’s posse with little point and fewer laughs. In fact, as one person remarked on the way out of the theater, it’s just sad to see Sandler this low. Hopefully, reuniting for Grownups 2 will bring back the laughs…