Grown Ups 2 opens with deer piss and closes with a fart. That should tell you just about everything you need to know about Dennis Dugans’ star-studded sequel to 2010’s Grown Ups.
But in case you need to know more, after that first joke, all the way up until the last, there’s a whole lot more of the same. And it’s bad. Almost cringe-worthy bad. I honestly didn’t think that this sequel could be any worse than the first film, but I have no problem admitting that I was wrong. Very wrong.
This story picks up with Lenny and the boys a few years down the road. He’s moved out of Hollywood back to his lovely hometown and life is great. Over the course of one day him and his friends are reunited with almost-forgotten people from their past, they get to watch their kids try new things and they join together to throw one big bash, just like the good ol’ days.
If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like enough of a story to make an exciting movie, then you are absolutely right. It’s not. It’s almost like Adam Sandler and his co-writers (Fred Wolf and Tim Herlihy) didn’t even try to construct a film that flows. The movie feels less like an actual story with a plot, and more like a series of little, unfunny jokes followed by the characters reminiscing about those jokes mere minutes later. There are countless scenes and characters that seem to be planted for later, but actually have no place in the story at all, thus leaving them completely pointless. Those scenes and characters might be worth the screen time if they were actually funny, but whenever there’s a break between fart jokes we get more jokes about creeps staring at cleavage, countless vomit shots, and people getting beat up by inflatable rafts, none of which work for for the film.
Perhaps the movie was written as an excuse for Sandler and his pals to dress up in their best ’80s costumes for the big party. Maybe the local party store was having a sale, and they wanted an excuse to buy everything on display. But in the film, the party just serves as a way to bring every character together for the climax, getting them all in one place just so they can continue being unfunny. If I kept this review going for another 15,000 words, then you might start to grasp the feeling of how over-long that final scene feels. Someone getting tripped in a fight is only funny a certain number of times. That number is one. On a good day. So the countless shots of that in this movie are more painful to experience than the trips themselves.
Watching Sandler’s career spiral like this is not an enjoyable experience either. With the subject matter and themes of Grown Ups 2 (getting older, trying to relive the past, children growing up, etc…) the target audience, at least in terms of the story, is clearly those who are around Sandler’s age. Unfortunately, those audience members saw Sandler in the glory days of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. Now he’s stuck writing and acting in sequels to horrible movies. What’s next, Jack And Jill 2?
Speaking of the audience this film is targeting, are there really that many 45+ year-olds who get a kick out of fart jokes? The story is aimed at a much older audience than the typical Hollywood comedy, but it’s filled with jokes that may appeal to a group of elementary schoolers (if those 4th graders have no taste). The goal may have been appealing to both audiences, but it effectively misses being something enjoyable for either group, falling somewhere in the abyss where no demographic should bother to search for it.
The spare moments of the film that are enjoyable usually stem from one of the actors who’s too famous to play anyone other than themselves. Steve Austin is great as a ‘roided’ up bully from Sandler’s youth, not only providing laughs, but successfully delivering the most heart-felt moment of the film. Shaquille O’Neal plays the terrible cop with a lot of spirit, and the character works, but really only because it’s Shaq playing Shaq. There’s even a joke about his free throw shooting in the movie which is actually quite funny. When that’s one of the highlights of a film starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Chris Rock, something has gone terribly wrong.
But perhaps the most enjoyable actor in the entire cast is Taylor Lautner. The kid from Twilight shows that he can bring a whole lot of laughs, especially when playing the frattiest college bro of all time. His character is completely over-the-top, and the performance fits it, with over-long handshakes, a back flip every seven seconds, and the proper amount of loathable cockiness. The humor involving Lautner’s character still is juvenile, but it at least doesn’t involve fart jokes, making most scenes he is in serve as a welcome reprieve.
But even the acrobatics of Lautner aren’t enough to save this movie from being absolutely horrible in almost every way. Grown Ups 2 is a prime example of just how far Hollywood comedy has fallen, taking a lot of talented actors and funny people and making them deliver bathroom humor without much of a real plot. Even if you are still interested in seeing this film, please do not see it in theaters. If you do, three years from now another sequel may be forced onto the big screen, and quality comedy will continue its slow, not funny, pointless march to death.
Just when it seemed like it couldn't get any worse for Adam Sandler, Grown Ups 2 underperforms its predecessor in every way imaginable.