Thursday, March 3, 2011

Grown Ups: Scarier than Forrest Gump? (Or: How I got everyone to tell me to lighten up)

Their shirts are all the same. Just like their cinematic output. 
          A few months ago I addressed some deep concerns I have with Forrest Gump. Namely, the film's horrifying implications and its supernatural ability to attract most demographics proved too much for me. Some people agreed, other people called it drivel, and others still just got confused. While I particularly like several elements of Forrest Gump, some of the acting and the photography, I found its gooey center to be somewhat disturbing. I've been asked many, many times to revisit that article and explore the film in a more precise way. 

          Tuff Mustard, we're moving on. 
          Because today we're going to be talking about Grown Ups. I must say, this is a movie I don't really respect any part of. The scenes just luxuriate in their self-indulgence. It is clearly a movie that was made because these actors felt like hanging out with each other, going to water parks, and having fun. And sometimes they forget to entertain their audience in the process. That being said, there are a couple of jokes that work fine and the movie isn't really trying to be something important or special. It's not really doing anything offensive. 

          Or is it?

          While Forrest Gump seems to indicate that the audience is better off not studying or trying to be special in any way, Grown Ups seems to be reflecting ideas and opinions that run rampant through a majority of the comedies, commercials, and television sitcoms of today. What's interesting about Grown Ups is the way in which it embraces many, many of these problematic social ideas and displays them not only as normal, but as light comedy. 

Look at that smug little grin.

          They're a couple?
          Case in point: look up a picture of Kevin James and then look up a picture of Maria Bello. Do you think this marriage would happen? Lets just say that it does. They love each other. Do you not think that their dietary regimens would be the same? What about exercise? Do you believe that this woman would allow the person she loves to be that unhealthy when she is clearly as healthy as she is? 
          I guess you could say that it might be an unhappy marriage, or a marriage made for money, but the film goes out of its way to show us how truly in love this couple is. 
         The point I am making is that men are allowed to be overweight if they're funny, but women have to look like Maria Bello. 
         Adam Sandler's wife is played by Salma Hayek. 
         Chris Rock's wife is Maya Rudolph, who was pregnant at the time of filming (marking the third time I've seen her play a pregnant woman in a movie while being pregnant in real life), and seems to be the only suitable match in the film. 
         Not only does this movie perpetuate the idea that women have to be rail thin and beautiful while men can be fat, but it also perpetuates the idea that men never grow into adults. The men in this movie all act no older than twelve years old with their fart jokes, penis jokes, total disregard for responsibility, and inability to cope seriously with traumatic events. We are treated to a scene where all the male protagonists pee in a kiddie pool. Right before Steve Buscemi is nearly killed; only for the men to react with laughter. The wives, on the other hand, all act as if men are the great burden of the world. They mother everybody in the film and are the sole sources of adult and responsible behavior in the film. 
          In other words, the men only act foolish and the women only act responsible and irritated. Why can't male and female characters just act like normal people in these comedies? Do the filmmakers really believe that the genders have these sole traits or do moviegoers just accept these untrue projections? Either way, it's scary how much this movie embraces these ideas. 

Pain and Caricature
          In the world of Grown Ups, it's funny when a man ends up in a body cast. It's also funny when a man falls thirty feet from a rope swing, nearly killing a bird and probably breaking every one of his ribs. It's also supposed to be cute when a little girl gets in a car and wrecks it. In the first five minutes of the movie. With no context other than there is a little girl driving a car around. This poor parenting is never addressed. 
          Slapstick can be funny at times, don't get me wrong. Chaplin is the obvious favorite as well as the Stooges, and when done right it can be pretty hilarious. But when you've got a movie that is supposedly set in the real world, while simultaneously showing us horrible depictions of freak accidents, we get confused. Pain is funny? No, and that concept is downright scary. 
          As far as caricature goes, I won't go into too much detail, but lets just say that the character of Mama Ronzoni played by Ebony Jo-Ann is an extremely racist depiction of an old African-American woman. Between her constant abuse of her son-in-law, her accent in relation to the accents of her family members, her horribly taken care of feet, her farting, and her admittedly male (in the world of Grown Ups) characteristics, it's safe to say that this movie is throwing everything it's got at this particular image. And the image is never once flattering. 
          Such blatant racism in a movie so recently made, especially used in a comedic way, is extremely disturbing. 

Chris Rock laughing at the size of Rob Schneider's career.
          This film is not raising up a mirror to help us work through our problems. It represents our problems. We are seeing a film that is trying desperately to be funny and escapist and light, but what we are really getting is a view of the world that just should not exist in a modern setting. In a way, this movie is a relic. A relic of all of those things feminists and activists have tried to get rid of for years. And the public is buying it wholesale. 
           If the message of Grown Ups is not scary to you, then you are not me. 


  1. hahaha- this is wonderful Cameron- absolutely wonderful

    It's interesting to see how this blog parallels some of our discussion from today.

    Join the resistance! woo

  2. snaps to this, cameron. not that i would ever want to watch this movie anyways, but I for sure won't be now. treat yourself and review a better movie next time :)

  3. What about the racist comment david spade makes about Mexico? Fucking asshole