There I sat, in stone-cold silence, not completely watching, but observing Grown Ups 2, one of the most desperate comedies of the year. Smiling maybe twice, groaning several times, rolling my eyes several more, and eventually closing them for a few seconds trying to imagine what a movie like this could’ve been if the quality of the talent matched the quality of the three screenwriters behind this project.
The first Grown Ups film wasn’t great — or even good — by any means, but had the vibe of a cheery, stupid ABC Family movie. The strongest complaint I had about the original film carries over to this one immensely which is that given the immense amount of talent in this film, from the three title characters alone, this should be a much better, much funnier movie. Adam Sandler can be funny when he is given timing and a decent character, Kevin James can always be sweet, simple, and relatable, Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians working today, and David Spade almost always knocks one out of the park in Rules of Engagement. It’s dumbfounding to note that Taylor Lautner has the biggest laughs in the film, and after watching this, I have faith that after the redundant Twilight franchise he’ll find work in some solid buddy comedies. However, the first inkling that Grown Ups 2 is terrible is by the sole fact that Rob Schneider himself decided other matters were worth is time than making a film that was almost guaranteed to be a hit.
The entire event is a plotless picture (not the good kind) that provides its audience with a pathetic array of scenes that seem more like throwaway skits from Saturday Night Live. It’s a massively redundant, laundry-list of senseless setups with unfunny payoffs that usually involve something along the lines of bathroom humor, objectification, homophobia, and obnoxious behavior. In other words, it’s another Sandler movie. It takes place entirely on the last day of school and revolves around the gang of Lenny (Adam Sandler), Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), and Marcus (David Spade) returns, this time welcoming a more quiet, suburban lifestyle contrary to that of Lenny’s in Hollywood, and the ridiculous series of sitcom antics that unfold overtime.
The plot stops there. What follows is, as stated, a series of cheaply-staged, poorly-performed, witless gags that do nothing but make one check the time. Among the barrage of questions I had while watching this film, one of which was, “who is the target audience here?” My mind resorted immediately to tweens and adolescents, who spend too much time giggling at bathroom humor as is. But then, as the film progressed, it began to redirect its senses to a more sentimental side, which only shows the immense tonal strain the film has which is “create cinematic anarchy for forty minutes before showing that this is a story about being true to ones roots and taking care of the family.” The sentimentalism is then mixed with a strangely out of place eighties party that concludes the picture, which will definitely not be appreciated to the fullest extent by the previously mentioned tweens and adolescences, as many of the jokes and period references will fly straight over their head.
The problem with the film is that it seems so effortless and so poorly conducted. At least with various Sandler films like Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and even the unexpectedly raunchy That’s My Boy, I could sense that it was made for somebody, be it adolescents or a bit older of a crowd and stuck with that persona. Grown Ups 2 is a film made with no agenda, no personality, and no spirit. It even resorts to the tireless Sandler cliche of having all the male characters being a cornucopia of stupidity and the female characters being nothing but eye-candy for the men. There are certain things I expect Sandler to be over now, what with approaching fifty in a few years.
You have a choice as a moviegoer this weekend and the several other weekends Grown Ups 2 is going to play. You can either a see a film that possesses gags as commonplace and predictable as a Fruity Pebbles commercial or use this time as an opportunity to seek out nearby independent features in theaters, at your local video store, or even on Netflix. Say you refute that suggestion and want to see Grown Ups 2 as a pleasant, feel-good movie. I know plenty of independent movies that are pleasant, feel good movies (Frances Ha is one of them and is still playing in many theaters nationwide). Wouldn’t you at least want to give money to people who don’t believe that you’re sitting in the audience because you possess the attention-span of a newborn?