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Chris Rock’s declaration of culture war elicits howl of rage

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 Grown Ups versus The Artist
Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The-Artist (2011).

Grown Ups versus The Artist

“Dude, people love ‘Grown Ups.’ I don’t care what the critics say. Who won the Academy Award this year? ‘The Artist’? Hey, ‘The Artist’ was great. ‘Grown Ups’ is better than ‘The Artist,’ and it’s better than ‘The Artist’ ’cause the audience says so. No film critic is going to say it, but ‘Madagascar 3’ is better than ‘The Artist,’ and it’s better because it makes people feel better.”

– Chris Rock in The New York Times, Sunday Aug 5, 2012 (when asked about his decision to make Grown Ups 2)

He’s gotta be kidding!

Multi-millionaire comedian so beyond selling out that he’s defending his 2010 Adam Sandler ensemble comedy. Why not admit he did it for the cash? Worse, actually declaring it better than The Artist, an homage to silent film that won the Academy Award for best film! How dare he!

That was my first reaction. Then I realized, hey—I haven’t seen either of them. So who am I to judge?

So I rented both and watched them on the B.C. Day long weekend with my long-suffering girlfriend. We watched Grown Ups first.

The movie starts with a high school basketball game. We get to see all the future millionaire comedians as teenage actors who look a little like them. Game ends. Cut to 30 years later. Coach Buzz or Buzzer or Buzz Lightyear, whatever, has died. They gather in their hometown to commemorate the coach. They book a weekend stay at some lakeside resort they used to stay in.

Cut to 90 minutes of millionaire comedians sitting in lawnchairs trading insults and ogling a young actress who is supposed to be the daughter of Rob Schneider‘s character.

Did I mention Rob Schneider’s in it?

Also David Spade.

Kevin James.

Rock.

Sandler.

Oh yeah, Colin Quinn needed work, so he’s here too.

Steve Buscemi lost a bet. Even though he’s in a full-body cast for most of the movie, he still escapes with more dignity intact than Salma Hayek. She plays the wife of Sandler’s character, a casting decision which at a stroke places Grown Ups firmly in the category of science fiction (if not science fiction horror).

Grown Ups versus The Artist
Grown Ups (2010).

Sandler’s character is a Hollywood agent. This earns him the nickname “Hollywood” when he returns to his hometown.

There is so much wrong with Grown Ups that it’s difficult to know where to even begin. At what point, I wanted to know, did Sandler and his writing partner decide that the script was finished? When they nailed that fifth fart joke?

Who came up with the “Saskatchatoon” joke, and can that person be injected with SARS?

How many more reaction shots can they have of these rich assholes laughing at their own jokes?

In the end what’s most offensive about Grown Ups is how cynical, arrogant and meanspirited it is. The only reason this movie exists is so Sandler’s buddies could collect some big paychecks, even if it means the Hollywood equivalent of stealing TVs off the back of a truck. Sandler is like the Tony Soprano of former SNL cast members.

There’s not much to say about The Artist, except that it’s everything Grown Ups is not. Purely for its cinematography, it is a much, much superior movie experience than Grown Ups. It also has a story that proceeds from A to B with logic and narrative precision. It also has likable characters, enjoyable period music (the soundtrack for Grown Ups features Triumph’s “Lay It On the Line”), some funny scenes, and frequent and clever visual gags.

I came away from The Artist wanting to know more about the movie, about the people who made it and the people in it, with a renewed appreciation for the mythmaking possibilities of motion pictures. Grown Ups made me want to hit someone with a hammer.

But maybe that’s what Rock meant?

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