War, plague, pestilence, famine, tornadoes, drought, head lice, cold corn dogs, the fourth hour of the “Today” show, that Train song where the guy sings about wanting a two-ply Hefty bag – all of these things are far, far worse than “Grown Ups 2.” And yet sitting through this deluded, directionless, relentlessly puerile comedy somehow feels equally punishing.
The first “Grown Ups” was a middling family comedy about a guy named Lenny (Adam Sandler) and his childhood friends (Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider) who reunite after their basketball coach’s death and reconnect by spending part of the summer together with their families.
It was forgettable but sporadically amusing, the actors’ off-screen friendships at least translating into some good-natured ribbing and unforced jokes. All you need to know about this new movie? Rob Schneider sat this one out. Yes. The guy who played “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo” – twice – apparently said: No thanks, I’m busy.
Good move by him, because nobody escapes untainted by the foul stench of “Grown Ups 2”; it’s bad enough to make you look askance at Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph, all of whom deserve a chance to do something funny other than pose as wives exuding various degrees of sexiness.
Hayek’s cleavage in particular is singled out; it gets more screen time than Steve Buscemi, which probably works in his favor.
The movie opens with a deer breaking into Lenny’s enormous house and peeing all over him. Consider yourself warned: This is a harbinger of what’s in store as well as a crass but effective metaphor for what the filmmakers are doing to the audience. What follows the peeing sequence is hard to explain, because although three screenwriters are credited, including Sandler, there’s no plot at all in “Grown Ups 2.” Zero. Nobody even tried to form any sort of narrative guideline (or write good jokes, for that matter). Even kids’ movies – maybe especially kids’ movies – need some sense of framework or structure or point.
Here’s what “Grown Ups 2” has: Lenny, the successful filmmaker, has left Hollywood and moved back home with his family (Hayek and three kids) to enjoy the slower-paced, small-town life. School is just about over for the summer. His pal Kurt (Rock) suggests Lenny throw a party to celebrate. And Lenny does. The end.
Before we get to that blessed finale, though, there are many flatulence jokes; vomiting; Cheetos stuck up a nose and then eaten; a guy shooting himself in the face with pepper spray; assaults on the male cast members’ private parts; a guy dressed as Boy George making out with a dog; and Shaquille O’Neal in a cop uniform. Turns out the Shaq appearance is necessary, because the best joke comes at his expense.
There’s also an ongoing battle between the middle-aged gang and a group of jerky frat brothers led by Taylor Lautner; the final confrontation takes place at Lenny’s big party, which has an ’80s theme, presumably so Sandler could dust off and reuse some costumes from “The Wedding Singer.” He also dusts off the J Geils Band to perform, and suddenly that Train song doesn’t seem so awful.
But can you blame Sandler for evoking the ghost of “The Wedding Singer”? Just think back to that funny little film for a moment. It was amusing. It had charm. It made you laugh. You didn’t feel vaguely dirty for spending money to see it.
“Grown Ups 2” is not going to leave you with such a pleasant memory.
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