Kevin James in "Grown Ups"
courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment

“The Funny Man Strikes Again”

Love him or hate him, most people agree that Adam Sandler is one funny man. Over the years Sandler has evolved from frat boy comic to “Saturday Night Live” regular to movie star. And as a movie star he has evolved from immature antics to romantic comedy to family man. His film “Grown-Ups,” which is now out on DVD, is a mark of that change. This film presents Sandler’s perspective from his current real life role as husband and a father.

In the film, which was written by Sandler and Fred Wolf, he stars as Lenny Feder, a very successful agent living in Hollywood. He has a gorgeous and talented wife named Roxanne (Salma Hayek) who has created her own dress line. They have three adorable but slightly spoiled children who are cared for by a nanny named Rita (Di Quon).

Lenny gets word that his old basketball coach (Blake Clark) has died. He and the family head east to attend the funeral and also to have a weekend reunion with his old teammates. These include Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (David Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider).

Eric is married to Sally (Maria Bello) and they have a four year old son who still breast feeds. They also have a young daughter. Kurt is married to Deanna (Maya Rudolph) and they are expecting their third child. Her mother, Mama Ronzoni (Ebony Jo-Ann) also lives with them. Rob has been married several times in the past and is now married to Gloria (Joyce Van Patten) who is much older than he is. Marcus is the only bachelor in the group. 

The movie looks at the interaction of these five guys as they come together again. The friendships seem to come back easily and soon they are making fun of each other and pulling silly tricks as only good friends can. This gives the movie its warmth and also provides some of the best comic moments in the film.

The movie is all about relationships: parents and children, husband and wives, friends and friends. It is presented in a way as to make the audience like every single one of the participants and to provide the viewers with an abundance of laughs as these relationships are tested.

Sandler is a comfortable fit in his role as Lenny as are all the other actors with theirs. These guys appear to be friends with each other and none of it seems forced. Sandler has the best way with the one liners but Spade creates a cool but clumsy character in Marcus. James is the best at physical comedy as Eric. Rock is the comically reactive Kurt and Schneider is the most put upon as Rob.

The women are equally good with Rudolph and Van Patten being the stand outs at comedy and Bello and Hayek being the stand outs in looks. All of the kids are cute without being annoying.

“Grown-Ups” is a movie that leads with its heart. It isn’t ashamed of its sentimentality and puts it all out there to be picked and prodded. The great thing is the movie is also very funny. There are laugh out loud moments that will stick with you. On the negative side, the editing in the movie isn’t the best and it looks like some scenes were just chopped off for timing purposes, but this is just a tiny quibble.

For heart and humor don’t miss “Grown-Ups.” It might not appeal to the “Hangover” crowd but for a large segment of the population it will be just what they need in entertainment.

Another new movie to DVD is “Not Since You.” This film is a sort of a modern day “The Big Chill.” In this movie the gang gathers, not for a funeral but for a wedding. And when they all come back together it causes heartbreak for some and new beginnings for others.

The large ensemble cast is very good with Christian Kane, Sara Rue and Elden Henson being outstanding. Other characters are played by Will Estes, Desmond Harrington, Kathleen Robertson, Jon Abrahams and Sunny Mabrey. Over the course of a weekend you get to know the characters they play and learn how their back stories affect their present day lives.

Mostly the movie is a love story and it shows how love can be found and how love can be lost. And in most cases love is unpredictable and that is what causes the biggest impact in this movie.

So for a love story that holds your interest from beginning to end, pick up “Not Since You.” 

“Charlie St. Cloud” is not a great movie in any sense of the word but it might have been a little bit more entertaining if the studio had not shown us just about every plot element in the trailer for the film. This latest trend of tell-all trailers is one of the worst ideas that Hollywood has come up with recently. This Zac Efron starrer would still have been a gooey, sentimental mess without it but at least we wouldn’t have known so in advance.

Charlie (Efron), his mother (Kim Basinger) and younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) live in the Pacific Northeast in a town on the water. Charlie is a high school senior and plans to go to college on a sailing scholarship. He and his brother are both excellent sailors and win most of the sailing events in their town.

When tragedy strikes his family Charlie withdraws from the world so to speak and takes a job as a caretaker at the local cemetery. He doesn’t take the scholarship to college and draws into himself. The only obligation he honors is to play catch with Sam every afternoon just before sunset.

One day he meets Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew) who is a competitive sailor who plans to sail around the world. For once Charlie is intrigued enough with someone to come out of his shell a little. However in a short time Tess too complicates Charlie’s world.

Zac Efron is in just about every frame of film in this movie. Most of the shots of him are brooding portraits featuring his intense blue eyes, or his well muscled body. The whole film serves as a scrapbook for his adoring fans.

This is not to say Efron can’t act. He gets better with each film, but in this movie the emphasis is more on his looks than on his talent. Plus the character he plays is a young man locked into himself and communicating with ghosts. Yes, Charlie sees dead people, but not as effectively as Haley Joel Osmond or Whoopi Goldberg did.

Crew is a pretty girl who serves her purpose in the film as Charlie’s love interest. Aside from her looks she does not make much of an impression. The movie would have been better served if Basinger and Ray Liotta had been given more to do with their roles. As is, they are just cameos by talented performers who could have elevated the movie with their abilities

The supernatural moments in the movie do not have much of an effect and come across as more crazy than spiritual. There should have been a real dramatic impact arising from Charlie’s revelations as to his ability to communicate with the dead, but it all just ends up being an “are you kidding” moment.

Zac Efron needs to grow as an actor and to have a good movie in which to show his talent. A glorified magazine spread like “Charlie St. Cloud” is not what his fans or his admirers want to see.

On the other hand “Ramona and Beezus” is a sweet, amusing film about a family living in modern day Oregon. The story is based on the Beverly Cleary books that were set in the fifties. Sometimes the actions and sensibilities of those years don’t mesh with 2010, and so the film seems a little out of kilter. Still the actors bring the characters to life with such warmth and affection that the film will still be a treat for entire families to see.

The main focus of the film is on Ramona (Joey King), a precocious nine year old who spars with her fifteen year old sister Beezus (Selena Gomez). The two girls also have a baby sister named Roberta (Aila and Zanti McCubbing). Their parents are played by John Corbett and Bridget Moynahan. 

In the film Mr. Quimby (Corbett) loses his job and this puts a strain on the family. Mrs. Quimby (Moynahan) has to return to work part time. Ramona comes up with some ideas on how to raise money but these rarely work and usually cost more than they save.

Ramona also has an active imagination and these “imaginings” are shown in full force in the movie. They add a lyrical charm to the film. Also adding charm are the performances by King and Gomez. King plays her role with full force exuberance while Gomez underplays her part. Moynahan is willowy and seemingly fragile as the mother while Corbett is all charm as the father.

Giving good support are Ginnifer Goodwin as the girls’ Aunt Bea, and Josh Duhamel as her boyfriend Hobart. Sandra Oh has a small role as Ramona’s teacher. The casting is very good as each of these actors blends into the roles.

The big draw of the film is that the entire family can enjoy it. Young tween girls should be its biggest audience as they will identify with the rambunctious Ramona and hope someday to be like the willowy Beezus.

For adults the movie is a little too sweet and predictable. Some of the solutions offered by the plot are not acceptable in the light of day but they work within the fantasy context of the film. This is a movie that is to be enjoyed in a fantasy type structure. You have to accept that part time jobs are as good as regular ones, runaway children are safe until found, and high school sweethearts wait for years to rediscover each other again.

You can enjoy “Ramona and Beezus IF you watch it with a child, and IF you check reality at the door.





©2010 Jackie K. Cooper

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