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Sandler’s Fatso Falls in Cake; Stone Chews Coca Leaves: Film

Here’s a quick quiz to determine if you’ll like “Grown Ups,” the new Adam Sandler comedy about the reunion of a youth basketball team:

Do fart jokes crack you up?

Do you giggle uncontrollably when a fat woman falls face first into a cake?

When guys pee in a pool, does it make you laugh out loud?

Do you get hysterical when homely dudes ogle a beautiful girl’s derriere?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, “Grown Ups” is for you. If not, you’ll shake your head in disbelief at how this juvenile, brain-dead movie ever got made.

In the film, Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider are ex-basketball teammates who reunite 30 years later for the funeral of their former coach. In reality, they’re a bunch of comic actors goofing around on a set waiting for something funny to do or say. The script, by Sandler and Fred Wolf, provides no such opportunities and whatever improvisation took place was obviously just as dull.

All but James are alumni of “Saturday Night Live,” where sketches that bomb usually last less than five minutes. “Grown Ups,” directed by Dennis Dugan, is like a lousy SNL bit that drags on forever.

Basketball Rematch

Sandler plays a hotshot Hollywood agent married to a bombshell fashion designer (Salma Hayek). Rock is a henpecked house-husband and James a chubby klutz whose wife (Maria Bello) is still breast-feeding their 4-year-old son. Spade is a lecherous lady’s man and Schneider a touchy-feely type whose much older wife is the butt of endless jokes.

After the funeral, they all spend July 4th weekend at a lake house that was a favorite hangout when the homeboys were growing up. They canoe, shoot arrows in the air, splash around at a water park and play a rematch against the basketball team they beat for the CYO championship in 1978.

We’re supposed to believe there are lessons to be learned here, like the importance of friendship and family. The lesson I learned was: Some reunions really are a waste of time.

“Grown Ups,” from Columbia Pictures, has opened across the U.S. Rating: *

‘South of Border’

Oliver Stone chews coca leaves with Bolivia’s Evo Morales and watches Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez ride a child’s bicycle in “South of the Border,” the director’s fawning documentary on left-wing Latin American leaders.

In their interviews with Stone, six current South American presidents, one former president and Cuba’s Raul Castro make valid points about U.S. interference in the region. But Stone’s chummy approach undercuts the power of the film and diminishes his effort to humanize leaders he claims have been demonized by the media.

While Chavez gets the most screen time, Stone also talks to Morales, Castro, Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and her husband Nestor, who preceded her as the country’s president. They all oppose U.S. exploitation and support programs to lift the masses out of poverty.

It’s hard to argue with that. I just wish Stone, who previously directed two sympathetic documentaries on Fidel Castro, had found time to ask Raul about keeping dissident journalists imprisoned under inhumane conditions. He also should have grilled Chavez about his inflammatory rhetoric and self- aggrandizing stunts. (Remember, this is the fellow who called George W. Bush “the devil” at the United Nations.)

There’s a fine line between advocacy filmmaking and propaganda. Stone has crossed it in “South of the Border.”

“South of the Border,” from Cinema Libre Studio, has opened in New York and opens July 2 in Washington and Los Angeles. Rating: *1/2

‘Restrepo’

Restrepo,” from National Geographic Entertainment, has opened in New York and Los Angeles. The gut-wrenching documentary follows a platoon of U.S. soldiers at a makeshift outpost in Afghanistan. To read an interview with filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, which ran during the Sundance Film Festival in January, click here.


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

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