Less story, more jokes - it's not much of a formula, but it has produced some magic. The Marx Brothers never met a script they couldn't ignore, and "Caddyshack" (1980), a loose-wheeled vehicle for Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Ted Knight, remains a classic. With the right stars and a savvy director, random chance can give rise to brilliance.

"Grown Ups," however, isn't the happiest accident. For starters, it's not enough to put Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin James in a room and pray for comedy. Sandler and co-writer Fred Wolf ("Tommy Boy") provide precious little material, and director Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore") has nothing to add. The five comedians clearly enjoy each other, but while the love is infectious, it also wears off fast.

The skeletal premise: Sandler plays hotshot Hollywood agent Lenny Feder, who, as a boy, helped win a memorable 1978 school basketball game. When his beloved coach dies, Feder reunites with his old teammates, families in tow, for the funeral. Colin Quinn plays a hometown rival still gunning for a rematch.

"Grown Ups" coattails on Judd Apatow's bromances and arrested-development romps like "Hot Tub Time Machine." The dialogue is mostly insult-banter: James is overweight, Rock plays a henpecked husband, Spade does his male-slut shtick, Schneider has the hots for older women (Joyce Van Patten, 76, plays his frisky lover). Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and Salma Hayek are wasted as spouses.

A few laughs emerge from the broad humor (slapstick, flatulence) and the movie is never mean-spirited. But it is lazy. Even throwing everything to the wall to see what sticks requires a little effort.

Back Story: ‘Grown Ups’ childplay shoot

‘Grown Ups” was shot last summer at a lake house in coastal Massachusetts, where the cast brought their families and had fun while they worked. Adam Sandler, who stars in and co-wrote the movie, says the relaxed family atmosphere helped make the production feel genuine.

“With the amount of money I have, it’s difficult raising children the way I was raised,” the father of two young daughters laments, adding with perfect timing, “but I took away the west and north wing of the house from them. They’re not allowed in there.”

The idea of a movie about a group of men who used to play basketball together as youngsters came directly from Sandler’s own experience. “Sixth grade was a big time in my childhood of hoops and friendship and coming up with funny things,” the actor says.

Though Sandler and longtime friend Fred Wolf co-authored the screenplay, they incorporated anecdotes from their friends and co-stars.

“There was a lot of ad-libbing,” Sandler says.

“I simply turned on the camera and let them do their thing,” says director Denis Dugan.

-- Entertainment News Wire

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