Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Farting, Burping, Ogling Man Babies: Lazy, cynical "Grown Ups 2" an insult to immaturity



Grown Ups 2 (2013)
101 min., rated PG-13.

There is a built-in audience for Adam Sandler and his lowbrow comedies. The talented funnyman receives a lot of blame for not growing up, but his movies seem to make a lot of dough to keep being made. Now, for the record, 2010's "Grown Ups" had a genial, relaxed air about it, even as the air was often stunk up with flatulence, bunions, and urine-based jokes. Really, were you expecting sophistication? The $80-million-dollar comedy earned its entire budget back with an $162-plus-million domestic gross, and it was puerile and harmlessly indefensible but not all that bad in the pantheon of Sandler comedies. Last year's "That's My Boy" was his first R-rated comedy, believe it or not, and now he's gone and made his first sequel, but something this lazy and cynical is beyond the pale. 

The not-so-eagerly-anticipated "Grown Ups 2" is much more of the same scatological juvenilia and hardly a knee-slapper, let alone an actual movie, making its predecessor look like a comparatively proficient study in wit, comic timing, and joke writing. Aiming low but aiming to please those who are awfully more tolerant of the lowest-common-denominator, rebounding director Dennis Dugan (2011's "Jack and Jill") and screenwriters Fred Wolf, Tim Herlihy & Sandler can pretend all they want that there was a script involved. Instead of having a plot we can concern ourselves with, crude would-be laughs are mined from a buck urinating on Sandler in bed, naked cliff-diving, a shemale bodybuilder, chocolate soft-serve ice cream looking like something else, and more potty humor than you can shake a roll of Charmin at. 

The rambling, rudderless "slice-of-life" subplots make up the whole of one of those "Where Are They Now?" epilogues stretched to 101 minutes. Since we've seen them last, former Hollywood agent Lenny (Adam Sandler) has relocated wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) and their three kids to his hometown. Living nearby are Lenny's pals, Eric (Kevin James), who sneaks in visits with his mother (Georgia Engel) behind his wife's back (Maria Bello); Kurt (Chris Rock), now employed as a cable installer but being the only one to remember his wedding anniversary with his wife (Maya Rudolph); and Marcus (David Spade), a deadbeat who sleeps around and reunites with his delinquent son (Alexander Ludwig). It's the last day of school, so while the kids all get to tangle with bullies and crushes, the four adult townies clash with a house of chest-bumping alpha frat dudes (led by a game Taylor Lautner) and an intimidating childhood foe (Stone Cold Steve Austin). Naturally, this all happens in one day but at least gets to culminate in an '80s-themed bash.

Humor is extremely subjective, but the level of comedy here never outgrows the base and elementary. Surprisingly, nobody sits on a whoopee cushion, but when in doubt, coin the term "burp-snarting," and if it's not funny the first time, repeat it five more times. A pervy janitor (Jon Lovitz) stands in as an aerobics instructor to make the women jiggle. There's a gay-panic joke during an "extra soapy" car wash with male cheerleaders (one of them being Andy Samberg). Someone has cheese curls stuck up his nose and then eats them. Another idiot sprays himself with pepper spray. Are we doubling over in laughter yet? There's a cheerfully childish and moronic tehee here and there, but no room is made for actual cleverness when cruel, groan-inducing slapstick will suffice to make foolish audience members bust a gut. Whereas most of the productions from Happy Madison want to fart and warm our cockles with forced homilies on why family makes the world go round, this one luckily doesn't get too unbearably gooey. The central through-line is that these middle-aged wiseacres aren't getting any younger, so with all the adolescent bathroom humor, who was this movie even made for? 

Everyone in the cast is better (and funnier) than this. Sandler, James, Rock, and Spade all play to type, resting on their laurels, and can only do so much when the jokes aren't up to snuff but proceed to volley back one-liners and crack up at their own jokes. (Due to "scheduling conflicts," Rob Schneider is a no-show and his character is never mentioned, so that's that.) Hayek and Bello are reduced to nothing, but Rudolph, who's enormously capable of being very funny, is still a hoot when given the chance. Once again, Nick Swardson comes out winning as the most excruciatingly obnoxious person on the screen and a human punching bag. Here, as an overly medicated, out-to-lunch bus driver, his shtick extends to defecating in a display toilet at Kmart. Oh, and let's not forget Cheri Oteri as Roxanne's loopy, delusional co-worker who still believes Lenny has a crush on her since she was a barrette-wearing 6th grader. Shaquille O'Neal is at least a funny addition but only in theory.

Assaulting the viewer with one lame, unfunny gag after the next, enough to question others' discernment, "Grown Ups 2" is what it is and it's a pathetic excuse for a fun summer comedy. Pandering, perfunctory, tone-deaf, and drecky, this counterproductive sitcom-level laffer can't find a memorable laugh to save its life. It's a prime example of a movie that was really fun to shoot but is more painful for everyone to watch. If Sandler and his pals want to go on vacation, they should do it on their own time without cameras. It might be damning with faint praise, but it's not "Jack and Jill." America, stop making this crap a hit. 

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