The age of flatulence

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'Grown Ups' an undeveloped comedy that fails to mature

One of the jokes in the lazy comedy Grown Ups is that a sexy buff guy at a swimming pool approaches some admiring women and speaks to them in a high voice - it's the steroids- and a comical French accent. He says he's from "Saskatchetoon," which is quite the knee-slapper because, well, what a funny word.

It's always nice to have your country saluted like this in a Hollywood movie, and you have to give credit to Adam Sandler - co-star, co-writer and co-conspirator in this vanity project - for not settling for Moose Jaw, which is also pretty rich, but it's been done. I just worry that Sandler will learn there's a town called Dildo in Newfoundland and Labrador. He'd have to make a trilogy to squeeze in all the hilarity.

One of the jokes in the lazy comedy Grown Ups is that a sexy buff guy at a swimming pool approaches some admiring women and speaks to them in a high voice - it's the steroids- and a comical French accent. He says he's from "Saskatchetoon," which is quite the knee-slapper because, well, what a funny word.

It's always nice to have your country saluted like this in a Hollywood movie, and you have to give credit to Adam Sandler - co-star, co-writer and co-conspirator in this vanity project - for not settling for Moose Jaw, which is also pretty rich, but it's been done. I just worry that Sandler will learn there's a town called Dildo in Newfoundland and Labrador. He'd have to make a trilogy to squeeze in all the hilarity.

Grown Ups is an answer to that old riddle, how many comic actors does it take to make a sloppy film? Answer: Five, one to fall on his face in the mud and four to laugh at him.

Falling on your face - along with tripping face-first into a pie, swinging from a rope and hitting your head (twice), peeing into bodies of water (twice), getting hit in the foot with an arrow (twice) and farting (also twice) - form the comic carapace of Grown Ups. It is fleshed out by what sounds like a lot of ad libbed dialogue in which the five amigos - Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider - make wisecracks and trade lame insults. Then they all laugh.

Sandler is especially amused by the goings-on, but then, he didn't have to spend $10.99 to get in.

Grown Ups is bad when it's trying to be funny and even worse when it stops for a moment to be profound. That's when director Dennis Dugan turns up the soundtrack - it's what syrup would sound like if it could be played on a violin - while mock-adorable children or mock-wise elders are respectively cutely innocent or cutely decent. Gloria (Joyce Van Patten) - a woman who is hazed throughout the film because she is old and unattractive - says that in life, "the second act, that's when the depth comes in," a piece of schmaltz herring that counts on us forgetting about the peeing and the farts and other intimations of second-act depth that fill the rest of the movie.

Gloria is married to Rob (Rob Schneider), a new-age type who gives a woman a massage with a hot rock that is so hot it hurts. The other friends - mostly ex-Saturday Night Live cast members - are Lenny (Sandler), a successful Hollywood agent who is married to a sexy fashion designer (Salma Hayek), marking one of the least likely pairings of recent cinema; Eric (Kevin James), whose role is that of the fat guy that would have been taken by Chris Farley if things had gone better and who is married to Maria Bello, who breastfeeds her four-year-old son, the other least likely pairing of recent cinema; Kurt (Rock), a stay-at-home husband who has a mother-in-law who is both mouthy and flatulent; and Marcus (David Spade), an alcoholic bachelor, which seems like a sensible alternative.

They're childhood friends who reunite when their old basketball coach dies, then spend the weekend at a cottage in New England somewhere - Sandler and co-writer Fred Wolf apparently expended all their precise geography on Saskatchetoon - where their nauseating children learn to put down the cellphones and video games and play outside for a change. Fresh air is a great cure-all, although it is at odds with intestinal gas.

All in all, it's a depressing view of men, women, marriage, friendship, and children - not to mention flatulence - that nevertheless reflects a kind of middle-American attitude, or at least the movie version of it. Wives nag, husbands misbehave, children annoy, but love pulls everything together. The main thing is the ability to laugh, especially at your own jokes.

1 1/2 stars out of five

Geographic location: Hollywood, Moose Jaw, Newfoundland and Labrador New England

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