Adam Sandler’s ego has become so large, it is now starting to swallow film.
Case in point: Grown Ups 2, an unnecessary and excruciatingly unfunny experience where everyone bows to the shrine of Sandler with director Dennis Dugan barely steering the mayhem…again.
I suppose the beginning is the best place to start. It’ll at least ease my way back into the headache I was feeling by the end of this ordeal.
Adam Sandler and his band of merry men (Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade, with Rob Schneider’s irritating hippie being left out and never mentioned) are back to welcome the brink of summer vacation. The parents are happy, but the kids are even more thrilled as they bid adieu to lethargic bullies and a clueless principal who still wears his childhood clothing.
The men wash, rinse and repeat the formula that brought home winning box office results in 2010. They gab about the kids of today, talk about the differences between now and their upbringing, and deal with their current marital relationships. Except Spade. Spade’s Marcus Higgins is given the task of meeting his estranged son for the first time. Alexander Ludwig plays a knife-wielding young man who has poorly drawn tattoos all over his arms, gangly hair, and an angry attitude towards his sleaze ball father.
And while the other friends are less slimy than Higgins, they’re meaner to each other in this sequel than how they were the first time around. In Grown Ups, the buddies teased each other for laughs. In Grown Ups 2, the jabs have become less comical and have more of a sting, making this friendship seem less convincing. Perhaps everyone is mulling over the baffling fact that they’ve been called upon to star in a sequel to a movie that was essentially old friends getting caught up with each other over a seasonal backdrop.
The estranged son story isn’t the plot to Grown Ups 2. I don’t think anything could be considered a plot in Grown Ups 2. For those who thought the first outing was an aimless collection of scenes featuring pals sitting around cracking wise, those movie goers spoke too soon.
Grown Ups 2 removes the cottage country and sticks the cast in a small town where Sandler’s Lenny grew up. Here, he raises his two sons and a daughter with his wife Roxanne (played by a returning Salma Hayek). This town is played up as a type of Springfield copycat; where everyone has a familiar face to the audience and a known status like “the dim-witted cop” and “the town’s fool”.
When he’s not being the family man, Lenny is trying to capture that youthfulness he misses. With the crack of summer vacation commencing, he sees this as a prime opportunity to soak in the rays and act foolish. Don’t look for a common thread. Grown Ups 2 is still about collecting an array of jumbled scenes featuring rambling nostalgia, rudeness, and cackles into the heat of the summer.
When reviewing That’s My Boy, I used the creation of a black hole as an allegory for its terrible sense of humour. The jokes in Grown Ups 2 take on a similar space-age fashion in the sense that watching the comedy is like learning about what people on another planet find humorous. After each awful punchline and every final shot zoning in on a mugging actor trying to wring laughs out of it’s audience, there’s a beat of silence followed by a moment of enlightenment as you tell yourself, “Oh! That was supposed to be funny. Ah well. Maybe I’ll get the next one.” This process carries on until the end credits.
Sandler/Dugan’s cruddy concoctions have the possibility to be easily ignorable. These childish films obviously have an audience and are easily accessible to families. Sandler’s constant push to show himself as an all around good guy and competent father figure is proof he wants his comedy to come off as likeable family fare. However, Grown Ups 2 can’t come off as likeable and the disgusting jokes aren’t fit for the whole family. It makes a weird turn – slowly but surely – into a realm of misogyny and contorted contradiction that evolves the film into something worthy of hating with a firry passion.
Grown Ups 2 has a neanderthal brian. Women are easily dismissed and can be smitten at the drop of a hat by any of our leads. Women are usually shown taking care of the children or ogling men. To my recollection, there are no positive female role models in Dugan’s film. They’re either two kinds of wives: Stepford or trophy. If Dugan wishes to argue that, I just hope he knows there are more scenes of Kevin James burping and farting than there are scenes of women speaking up.
Schneider is replaced by an aggravating Nick Swardson, who portrays a barely coherent bus driver. Imagine something disgusting and Swardson, more than likely, does it in the movie. The gross-out factor barges off-the-scale immediately and dives into a grating territory where urine stains and making out with a dog is considered comedic genius.
Anyone who isn’t a friend of Lenny is portrayed as a creepy or weird deviant of some sort. For instance, Dan Patrick’s gym teacher character is a creep who wears short shorts and asks students if they want to see him climb a rope. Jon Lovitz, who looks as if he’d rather be elsewhere, plays a perverted janitor who loves to see yoga classes bend over and slap their bottoms. And the worst case is Cheri Oteri’s Penny. She plays a stalker of Lenny’s who fell in love with him in sixth grade. The character is a discomforting dud from the word “go” and, nonetheless, is badly acted by Oteri, an otherwise talented comedienne.
Dugan’s script he co-wrote with Sandler and Fred Wolf pushes a heavy-handed but cloudy anti-bullying message. On one hand, Sandler is stopping bullying whenever he can, but also using quips to make fun of the bully’s physical appearance. Without giving too much away, a climactic one-on-one with Lenny and a past meanie is taken care of suitably and non-violently, but is then buried by an overlong punchy brawl featuring loud adults versus an arrogant fraternity.
But, let’s not forget that Sandler praising. In the writer’s room, I’m sure Lenny wasn’t supposed to become a clone of Sandler. But, when the character has been written in such a way that portrays him as a successful Hollywood mogul, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow.
Grown Ups 2 is another one of these movies where it eventually turns into the cinematic equivalent of Sandler looking at himself in the mirror and winking. He’s once again represented as the Dad who is invulnerable to everything and can make anyone smile. A scene that sums up how self-indulgent the film becomes is when an otherwise villainous character stops the movie, speaks up and commends Lenny for hitting the big time in Hollywood and for having the good naturedness to come back to his small town roots. Gag me with a spoon.
Grown Ups 2 is to Grown Ups as Sex and the City 2 is to the first Sex and the City movie. Even people who may have found a smidgen of laid back enjoyment in the first film are going to have a hard time swallowing this filthy, mean-spirited money-grubbing comedy.
Next time these four want to hang out, I suggest they go to the local Denny’s, feast on a giant breakfast and hang out instead of making a movie about it. That way, there are a lot less casualties and Rob Schneider can join in on the fun since he’s there full time now.