I have a habit of perhaps getting a bit long-winded with some of my reviews (if I’m going to say someone’s million-dollar creation is or is not worth $10 and two hours of your time, however, I feel the need to explain myself in full). So let me put my feelings toward "Grown Ups 2" as clearly and as upfront as possible.
Actually, I hesitate to use the word "movie" to describe this middling comedian mid-life crisis simulator. Sure, it’s technically a series of shots projected rapidly onto a screen to give the impression of a moving picture. But anything an audience member goes to a movie for – story, entertainment, emotion, mere distraction – is nowhere to be found in "Grown Ups 2."
Jumping off three years from the first film, "Grown Ups 2" tries the daring storytelling approach of not having a story whatsoever. The closest thing we get is our four man-children (Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade) square off against a posse of aggressive frat bros.
Otherwise, it’s just the guys meandering around a small town, running into their real-world buddies (Dan Patrick, Shaq, pretty much every "SNL" alum whose film career flamed out) and causing desperately unfunny shenanigans. No motivations. No momentum. No point. It’d almost be impressive how little happens in "Grown Ups 2" if it wasn’t so insulting.
Other potential subplots and arcs pop up – Sandler’s oldest son has eyes for the cute girl in school, an obsessive woman from Sandler’s past still loves him, Rock’s wife (Maya Rudolph) forgets their anniversary – but the script doesn’t develop them or tie them into a story as much as it just throws them into a Gravitron amusement park ride and tries to make sense of the puke-filled aftermath.
The bros (led by Taylor Lautner in a role that could have been funny if he wasn’t channeling one of Forks’ many forests) eventually return for the climactic ’80s party fight scene so the guys can learn a half-baked … no, quarter-baked lesson about standing up for yourself.
The fellas also come to the conclusion that though they may be old, they’re still totally cool, fun and relevant. They sound like they’re trying to convince themselves of this fact, almost as though Sandler’s not-quite-successful streak of recent films ("That’s My Boy," "Jack and Jill") has caused self-confidence to dip amongst the Happy Madison brethren.
Sandler is the main recipient of the cheap lesson in bravery. Meanwhile, Spade discovers he has an angry bearded son, and James is stealing away to his mother’s house because his marriage to Maria Bello is cooling off. Not that we see any of their marital problems. That would require devoting time to character development rather than another artlessly tossed-in cameo or limply staged gag, likely involving deer urine (of which there are two in the opening five minutes).
It should be noted that despite James’ lying, lazy, childish ways, Bello takes the blame and is the one who vows to change. She even rewards James for ogling a sexy dance teacher by taking him to a cheerleader car wash because in Sandler’s world, having the self-control of a Cro-Magnon man just what guys do. Women should just accept it.
Amusingly enough, Sandler gets annoyed and flustered when he discovers his wife’s (Salma Hayek, entering every scene cleavage first) new yoga instructor is handsome. Double standards; what are those?
"Grown Ups 2" doesn’t think very highly of women in general. If you’re not a physically perfect coed dressed like you just got off the set of a Maxim shoot and flaunting perky boobs that the characters and director Dennis Dugan can’t wait to fix their eyes upon, you’re the butt of a joke. Then again, considering our immature, noxious leads are meant to be relatable, I’d say "Grown Ups 2" doesn’t think very highly of the entire human population.
The lack of discernable effort extends into the comedy. The humor dished out by the three (THREE!) writers – Sandler, Fred Wolf and Tim Herlihy – would need to mature by leaps and bounds to simply qualify as juvenile. Every bodily function is dredged up for lifeless gross-out gags. Besides one or two decent lines from Rock, the dialogue’s version of clever is calling a mustached cop "Magnum P.U." Every pratfall and slapstick gag is somehow poorly set up but yet still predictable.
The movie constantly settles for the laziest possible punch line, and Dugan’s amateurish direction barely bothers to hide this fact, barely mustering any enthusiasm and energy for the dull material. Seemingly sensing this, the cast (most notably Hayek) oversells every joke. The result is tragically desperate, like a doctor continuing to do CPR despite the fact that his patient died hours ago.
And while not wishing ill-will upon the man, I’m not convinced Sandler flunky Nick Swardson ("A Haunted House," "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star") isn’t on a mission to single-handedly eliminate the concept of comedy from the planet. I’ve had lung collapses that got more laughter out of me than Swardson and his relentlessly infantile mugging.
I’ll admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Sandler’s brand of comedy, but I’ve enjoyed some of his stuff in the past, like "Happy Gilmore" and "50 First Dates" (I’d even call "Click" passable). His latest efforts, however, have been experiments in how much money he can wring from his audience with the least amount of effort.
"Grown Ups 2" marks a new low, a film that is arguably harmful to Hollywood and certainly harmful to anyone in the audience with any need for their brain cells. It’s a lazy and cynical film from people who think you are stupid and will watch anything with their faces on it.
Prove them wrong. Don’t see it.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published March 1, 2015
It's been about 50 years since a bunch of bands made their way across the pond to America, sending the nation's teenagers into a tizzy - as well as their parents into a harrumph. Now, many of the figures from the era of the British Invasion - including Peter Asher, a renowned producer and the former half of the duo Peter & Gordon - are hitting the American road yet again for a 50th anniversary tour, coming to the Pabst Theater on Friday, March 6.
Published March 1, 2015
Rory Ferreira, aka Milo, has always been on the move. When he was a kid, he moved around a lot. Here, he moved up in the local rap scene, and with his name growing clout, he moved yet again - as many hopeful young artists do - to Los Angeles. And as many hopeful young artists do, he soon found the cold part of the industry. It became time to move again, back to the town he previously left: Milwaukee. So far, he's picking up right where he started.
Published Feb. 27, 2015
After a quarter of a century as Milwaukee music mainstays, Clamnation is coming to an end, bringing things to a grand close Friday night at the Nomad World Pub beginning at 9 p.m. There tends to be an assumption of the worst when band members go separate ways, but that's far from the case here.
Published Feb. 25, 2015
"The Lego Movie Sequel" made headlines yesterday announcing its newly appointed director: Rob Schrab, a veteran of TV shows like "The Mindy Project," "Children's Hospital" and, most notably, NBC's beloved cult hit "Community." He also wrote the indie hit comic book "Scud: The Disposable Assassin." Oh, and he's also from Wisconsin! Everything is local! Everything is cool when you're from Milwaukee!
Published Feb. 25, 2015
If you've kept an ear to the local music scene over the past year or two, the odds are good that you've heard about GGOOLLDD. The band hits the Company Brewing (the former Stonefly Brewery) stage on Saturday night as a part of Arte Para Todos. Before that, however, OnMilwaukee.com caught up with the group to learn more about Milwaukee's latest music obsession.
Published Feb. 24, 2015
In the war between honesty and artifice, "Still Alice" has a pretty phenomenal performance in the former's corner.
Published Feb. 22, 2015
In movies, time travel typically ends up in the hands of the decent or deserving. "Hot Tube Time Machine 2" proposes ... what if it didn't? What if, instead, it wound up in the depraved hands of a bunch of restrained man-child ids, who then proceeded to violate space, time and everyone and everything they ran into along the way? The answer? Some laughs, I guess. A good amount of silence too. Bags don't come much more mixed than this.
Published Feb. 20, 2015
After months of hoopla and think-piecing (and a bomb scare just for extra drama) the Oscars are finally set to go this Sunday. And I suppose that means it's time to get my picks in order.
Published Feb. 18, 2015
Local rock band Eagle Trace has a new EP - "Off in the Night" - primed for release this weekend at a show at Anodyne Coffee in Walker's Point on Saturday, Feb. 21. For the guys, it's exactly the step forward they're hoping for. It's an understandably exciting one after about a year of drama and tension for Eagle Trace. And not just because of the predictable brotherly bickering - though there's some of that as well.
Published Feb. 16, 2015
The fan favorite jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!" - arriving at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on Friday for a five-show weekend stint - tells the tale of love found and thriving in the midst of the Mediterranean, all to the tune of ABBA hits. For ensemble cast members Jennifer and Vince Wingerter, it's a story that rings true in real life.