Adam Sandler, what have thy become? Actually, I take that question back. It shouldn’t be what Adam Sandler has become, but why he continues to insist on making humiliating comedies (that’s humiliating, not humorous). The people who have purposefully spent money so that Sandler can continue to make crappy movies, it just further reinforces the notion that Mike Judge (Office Space, Beavis & Butt-head) is the second coming of Nostradamus. His satirical comedy Idiocracy predicted this evolution of dumbed-down entertainment. A world in which people would make Ow My Balls! must-see viewing and have the movie Ass be a box office sensation.
Of all the films on Sandler’s resume it’s okay to question why Grown Ups gets a follow-up. It’s not like the original comedy left any lingering questions or subplots that needed to be cleared up in a sequel. Though, interestingly enough, the second Grown Ups poises a question all its own which I’ll discuss in later detail.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The same cannot be said for a movie comedy. The first joke should be at least a line drive double, if judging a comedy with baseball metaphors. With Grown Ups 2 we get animal urination. No build-up whatsoever. Lenny (Adam Sandler) is asleep in the master bedroom when he is awakened by a crunching noise nearby. It’s a deer casually eating a bowl of chips on the nightstand. Trying to awaken his wife, Roxanne (Salma Hayek), she screams and causes the deer to rear back on its hind legs and shower Lenny with pee. That’s the first gag. The last gag takes place in the same room with Lenny and Roxanne about to engage in sex. But before that can start, Lenny delivers what’s called a “burpstarter,” which is a burp quickly followed by a sneeze and a fart. For audiences that rewarded Grown Ups as the most successful Sandler production they are repaid with corresponding bathroom humor bookends. How’s that for a trade off?
I was probably one of the few critics that didn’t outright dislike the original Grown Ups, going as far to say it was “comfort food for families looking to have a good time.” Sandler has taken his man-child Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore ways and paired it with a family man dynamic. As his audience from the ‘90s grew up, so did he (in terms of being a family man); this explains the increase of Sandler movies involving being married with children.
But any enjoyment I found in Grown Ups quickly dissipates due to a sequel that gets continuously worse each passing minute. It got to a point where I was sorry the audience was laughing at humor that had little rhyme, reason or sense of placement.
Years after a wondrous summer reunion, Lenny, Eric (Kevin James), Marcus (David Spade), and Kurt (Chris Rock) decided to move back to their hometown. It’s the last day of the school year and the gang is planning a start-of-the-summer party with a 1980s theme. But before the party they have a few situational issues to sort out. One is Eric’s cowardly lion-esque aversion to diving off a rock platform at the local quarry. A local frat, led by Andy (Taylor Lautner), has a serious disdain for “Townies” and with them invading his self-imposed property. Marcus has to deal with meeting Braden (Alexander Ludwig), the son he never knew. He’s the type who would be great friends with The Mighty Ducks’ Fulton Reed if they grew up together. Kurt gets to dangle a mischief carrot over his wife Deanne (Maya Rudolph) after she forgot their anniversary. As for Lenny, he has to deal with Roxanne’s desire to have another child. Just when he thought he was out of performing parental duties, she pulls him back in!
Missing from the festivities and situational problems is Rob Schneider. He was the last member of the childhood gang and featured in the original Grown Ups. Yet, he’s nowhere to be found in the sequel. He’s not even mentioned. Could it be that the star of The Animal and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo saw an early draft and thought it to be so bad that he wanted his character removed entirely? Good move for him, bad move for us, as his replacement is Nick Swardson, who plays a sexually confused, drug dependent school bus driver.
In an effort to confuse the audience into believing there’s an actual story in Grown Ups 2, Sandler calls in some favors from his Saturday Night Live alumni to bolster the comedy with cameos and supporting roles. Cheri Oteri plays Lenny’s obsessive middle school crush (Shocker: they went out once!), Colin Quinn as Lenny’s old nemesis, Dickie, and Andy Samberg and the rest of The Lonely Island as male cheerleaders. Sandler’s buds and crew from over the years are also in tow: Steve Buscemi, Allen Covert, and Peter Dante among others. Sports stars and celebrities on the pop culture’s fringe are also here. ESPN’s Dan Patrick and Chris Berman play a gym teacher with an odd fascination with wearing old-school basketball shorts and a TV soap opera star, The Great Renaldo. Shaquille O’Neal is a local cop partnered with Dante, and a famous pro wrestler comes into frame as the bully Lenny feared in his youth.
If there was a highlight to be had, it was Taylor Lautner as a cartoonish frat boy with a wolf-like temper. He also loves to do back flips and secret handshakes for no apparent reason. Lautner may not be able to act his way out of a paper bag but when put in the right situation he can score a genuine laugh. Yes, Team Jacob is the funniest one on screen. There, I said it.
With no actual story to manage, the sequel piles on the stupidity. Some of the jokes involve super inflatable rafts, bouts of regurgitation, pee stains, shots to the groin, and perfectly placed product placement (hello, K-mart). At the ‘80s party, characters and costumes have to be identified so the tweeners and kids aren’t confused as to why Chris Rock would be wearing a purple outfit and sporting a mustache and poofy hair. Shaq’s inability to make a free throw is also a punch line, but only registers if you knew he was a former pro basketball player with poor free-throw shooting skills.
The major plot may be Lenny and Roxanne’s argument about having a fourth child, but we also get a battle between the townies and the frat brothers. Don’t expect a skirmish that’s as magnificent as the one seen in Will Ferrell’s Anchorman.
Much of what occurs in Grown Ups 2 is unfunny and flat out embarrassing. To borrow an exchange from Adam Sandler’s first chance at movie stardom, Billy Madison, I leave you with this paraphrased statement:
“At no point in your rambling, incoherent comedy were you even close to anything that could be considered an enjoyable movie. Everyone in this theater is now dumber for having watched it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Director: Dennis Dugan
Writer: Fred Wolf, Adam Sandler and Tim Herilhy
Notable Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, David Spade, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi, Colin Quinn, Taylor Lautner