In a Summer of good films, Grown Ups 2 is neither special nor memorable.
I've made my disdain fairly clear for Actor Adam Sandler, who's turned in a body of work that hardly ever elevates itself from gross humor. He hit pay dirt last year with Hotel Transylvania, but that didn't come from his studio Happy Madison Productions, nor was it written by him. I had hoped his success in the animated genre would encourage him to produce more family-friendly (and frankly funnier) fare, and to move past the growing number of disappointments and bombs that are littering a once promising career. Grown Ups 2 shows that he's neither learned from his mistakes, nor understands the more lucrative choices placed before him.
The original Grown Ups did very well at the box office, telling the story of Hollywood agent Lenny (Sandler) who returns to his old stomping grounds after the death of a friend. As the sequel picks up three years later, Lenny and his high school buddies Eric (Kevin James, Here Comes the Boom), Kurt (Chris Rock, What To Expect...), and Higgy (David Spade, Joe Dirt) are all living their lives in the same town in which they grew up. They spend time away from their families at the local KMart, laugh as the deranged and whacked-out bus driver Nick (Nick Swardson, Bucky Larson) erratically drives the school bus containing their kids, and engage in general mayhem at their favorite childhood hangout. There's other storylines here, such Higgy learning that he's unknowingly fathered an angry tattooed son, while some of the children begin to realize hidden strengths, and a local frat comes into contact with Lenny and his posse. The wives, led by Salma Hayek and Maya Rudolph, have their own issues such as poopy diapers and keeping their psychotic employees from making moves on their husbands. After awhile of this, the frat vs old school story line takes seed, pitting Lenny against Andy (Taylor Lautner, Twilight series), leading to a giant brawl at Lenny's house. Exciting.
Grown Ups 2 tries too hard to present multiple story lines, none of which it seems very happy to pursue. From Roxanne wanting another child, Eric's son demonstrating his complete lack of math skills, a gay fitness instructor, a doctor who likes the Gin juice a little too much, and the 18 other half-boiled attempts at humor, almost none of them come to a satisfying conclusion. The result is more like a series of comedic skits than a coherent, connected story. Many of the actors feel out of place or not ready for the ad-lib nature of the film, including Lautner as an uncredited character. His appearance just goes to show how low his career has gone. Why not throw in a Taylor Kitsch while you're at it? If you're into cameos, you'll like the procession of them, but most moviegoers will miss them entirely. But there's also a feeling that Sandler's world isn't quite real, with no legal consequences for his posse's childish behavior. The big brawl I mentioned never turns out poorly for Sandler, as he just cleans up the mess, grabs a bag of chips, and tells his wife that he's ready for another child. That's about as dramatic and realistic as things get here.
As always, we could blame longtime Sandler collaborator and Director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Chuck and Larry) for the mess, but this is Sandler's first sequel, written by him and SNL buddy Fred Wolf (Black Sheep), and it's got their fingerprints all over it. I'm sure between takes that this must have been like a comedic version of Ocean's Eleven, except none of that fun translates to the big screen. Sandler's story isn't really one, just an excuse for his former SNL buddies to pal around between before Dugan has to ferry all the baby chicks into place for their next scene. There's nothing new here, nothing remotely funny, and you'll forget any of the one-liners produced. To be fair, this is not That's My Boy, one of the most disgusting films I can remember (incest as a joke? Really?), but there's nothing that should draw you to see it, unless it happens to be on cable and there's absolutely nothing on.
If it's possible, Grown Ups 2 actually imparts an important moral: Sandler has come to the end of the line, and one should steer clear of any future projects from his production company. Its barely-funny, seen-it-before schmaltz never rises above the avalanche of toilet humor that permeates the entire production, keeping it from becoming a really great comedy by some of the industry's best (or perhaps used to be). Still it's possible that some fans will ignore the warning signs to see it, but when you can duplicate most of the humor that Sandler and company imparts here on your own, why bother? Grown Ups 2 is rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 101 minutes.
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