Grown Ups 2

Adam Sandler & co. plumb new depths

Also opening this week:

• Jobs ★★½
• The Purge ★

Grown Ups 2

Rating Grown Ups 2Grown Ups 2Grown Ups 2Grown Ups 2

Directed by Dennis Dugan. Starring Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Maria Bello, David Spade, Taylor Lautner, David Henrie, Nick Swardson, Cheri Oteri, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Austin, Allen Covert, Steve Buscemi, Andy Samberg, Jon Lovitz, China Anne McClain, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Halston Sage. Written by Fred Wolf & Adam Sandler & Tim Herlihy.

A plotless, pointless, laughless collection of desperate lowbrow gags in the guise of a coherent film, Grown Ups 2 must be seen to be believed. I hesitate to call this Adam Sandler’s worst film, if only because of what has come before it. But wow. This rote cash-grab doesn’t even have the weirdness of Jack and Jill to recommend it. 

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Still, one can hardly blame the star, who has done fine work in films like Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Funny People, only to see those films fail at the box office. Meanwhile, Jack and Jill, Just Go with It, Grown Ups, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry all turn in hefty profits on tiny budgets. 

And like clockwork, Grown Ups 2 raked in the dough at the US box office, beating out blockbusters like Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger on its way to a (to-date) total of $125. Hey, if this is what the public wants, then this is what the public deserves. I cannot fault the filmmakers for not putting more effort into the movie; it won’t make a lick of difference to their target audience. 

“Effort” is a word that belongs nowhere near Grown Ups 2, which feels like it was made without a script, or even a rough treatment, or any sense of continuity or cohesion. It’s been slapped together in the laziest manner imaginable, cutting from one would-be gag to the next without any thought they should, maybe, be building towards an actual movie. 

When critics used to bemoan the one-joke SNL feature film spinoffs – films like A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, or It’s Pat – I doubt they had something like this in mind. No, this film starts out with a bunch of middle-aged suburbanites and lets the laughs just roll in from there. It is, literally, a no-joke film. 

At the outset, a deer has broken into Feder abode, waking Lenny (Sandler) and wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) in the early morning. There are a number of directions director Dennis Dugan (working from a script by Sandler, Fred Wolf, and Tim Herlihy) could take this, from deadpan, to slapstick, to dark comedy. Here, the deer pisses in Lenny’s face, then runs into the bathroom to piss on his son. Gold.

It’s the last day of the school year, and Lenny, Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James), Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock), and Marcus Higgins (David Spade) uh… wander around aimlessly while their kids go to school. Their wives – Roxanne, Sally (Mario Bello), and Deanne (Maya Rudolph) – uh, attend yoga class. At the end of the movie, they have a big 80s-themed party. There’s your movie in a nutshell.

Story? Themes? Character arc? Lenny’s wife wants to talk about having another child, but he’s happy with three. Marcus is reunited with his brutish, adolescent son, who may want to kill him. Eric, uh, can “burp start” – sneeze, burp, and fart at the same time. Kurt… nope, I got nothing. Forget about their spouses. 

In place of anything resembling a plot, we’re treated to an endless barrage of side characters and cameo appearances: there’s the dazed, closeted homosexual bus driver (Nick Swardson), the uptight driving instructor (Steve Buscemi) and his wife (Cheri Oteri), who has a thing for Sandler, bumbling police officers played by Shaquille O’Neal and Peter Dante, the ice cream man (Colin Quinn), a janitor played by Jon Lovitz, Norm Crosby (!) as a Kmart employee, sportscaster Dan Patrick as a gym coach, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin as the bully from Lenny’s past, Tim Meadows and Ellen Cleghorn as a couple with an unusual hairline, Andy Samberg and Will Forte as car wash boys, and a gang of yuppie fratboy toughs led by Taylor Lautner and Milo Ventimiglia. In the one gag that I cracked a smile to, sports announcer Chris Berman has a 5-second cameo as a TV soap Casanova. 

Shaq, by the way, legitimately gives the finest performance in the film; like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane, his sheer size alone lends itself to comedy. The other cast members should be so lucky: with nothing funny in the script to back them up, they flounder under sub-improv-level material. Here’s looking forward to Grown Ups 3: I wonder if they can get any lazier next time around. 

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