Writing a screenplay isn’t necessarily some big mysterious artistic process. For some people who do it successfully enough times, it just becomes work.
Flowery literary spices such as “inspiration” and “innovation” become mere frills to be discarded like closet items from the does-not-spark-joy pile. In their place stands the rote efficiency of doing just enough and doing it in a timely manner. Watching this Tyler Perry video that the monstrously prolific auteur tweeted on Monday, in which he surveys stacks and stacks of as-yet unfilmed TV scripts he wrote himself, one gets a sense of clock-punching competence rather than quill-clutching passion.
Clearly, this is what Tom Scharpling sees when he looks at the last decade-plus of Adam Sandler movies.
Scharpling is a veteran TV writer with credits as varied as Monk and Difficult People. He’s also host of The Best Show, your favorite comedian’s favorite comedy podcast. This is a man who knows what is funny and what isn’t and has a lot of opinions about both, but especially the latter. For no discernible reason, Scharpling has undertaken a funny new writing project that nobody asked for and will never get made: a screenplay for Grown Ups 3.
The idea may scan as something that simply does not need to exist, and that is accurate. The screenplay’s inherent inessentiality, though, is one of the reasons it works so well as a commentary on the Grown Ups-type movies in Adam Sandler’s oeuvre. At a moment when critics are (rightly!) lauding Sandler for his dialed-in performance in Uncut Gems, Scharpling’s 52-page script eviscerates the kind of assembly-line wheel-spinning movies the actor once (jokingly?) admitted are excuses to go on paid vacation.
Scharpling’s screenplay is religiously faithful to the middle-of-the-road humor of these latter-day Happy Madison productions, almost affectionately so. The parody isn’t overblown; instead, it’s a reflection of the laziness of comedy scripts that are clearly farted out with Tyler Perry speed. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and he’s wearing milkbone underwear” is a representative joke in Scharpling’s script that would not be out of place in either existing Grown Ups movie. The critique is savage only in its accuracy and authenticity. Well, at least at first.
After an early twist, and further twists to come, the screenplay plunges into metatextual, deconstructive territory that I won’t spoil here. It helps to know a little about the plot and personnel of the Grown Ups movies and some of the behind-the-scenes drama undergirding them, but it is by no means required. Just strap in, get ready to laugh, and know in your heart that however long it took Scharpling to knock out this script, it’s still probably more than Sandler and his cowriters spent on Grown Ups 2.