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 Nov. 26, 2014
King Washington - comprised of bassist Billy Lee and guitarists Tyson Kelly and George Krikes - hails from Los Angeles, so it's safe to say the recent hammering of cold winds and sleet isn't exactly something they're used to. The guys are more used to wearing petticoats and frills - their signature outfit - than heavy winter coats. Even with the weather, though, Milwaukee feels like a second home for the indie rock band.
Published Nov. 25, 2014
Bad news, Marcus Majestic employees; your Black Friday crowds are going to even bigger than usual this weekend. The Brookfield movie house is one of 30 theaters nationwide that will witness the power of a fully operational 88-second "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer.
Published Nov. 24, 2014
As the creators of the Found Footage Festival, Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett are no strangers to bad ideas. And they'd have it no other way. For the past decade, that's exactly what Prueher, Pickett and the Found Footage Festival have done: showing people the best of the worst cheap VHS tapes the world has to offer, videos that can often make the tape from "The Ring" seem like a blissful rom-com.
Published Nov. 23, 2014
I'd like to say that I really, really liked "Mockingjay," and that it's my favorite of the franchise. As of right now, those statements are true, but I guess I can't say for sure until next year when the story is finally allowed to end.
Published Nov. 20, 2014
The trailer for "Pitch Perfect 2" came out this morning. The original cast - Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, etc. - is all here, as well as a few new faces. Among those new faces, however, is one very familiar to sports fans: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews - flanked on both sides by fellow Packers TJ Lang, Josh Sitton, Don Barclay and David Bakhtiari.
Published Nov. 19, 2014
In case there was a question about this matter, "Dumb and Dumber To" is - for lack of a better word - dumb. Very dumb. There's entertainment where you turn your brain off, and then there's this, where maybe it's best if you leave your brain out of the theater altogether just in case its rollicking, unrepentant stupidity is somehow contagious. But did I laugh? Yes.
Published Nov. 17, 2014
They aren't old enough to legally smoke, drink or even drive. If "This Is Spinal Tap" was in theaters, they wouldn't be able to see it without their parents, and if you add together the ages of all five band members, the quintet's combined age (63) would still be younger than Sir Paul McCartney (72). But while most kids' dreams of rock glory only go as far as that - dreams - Mad RED Kat has already started acting on its aspirations, forming a band and playing gigs across the city.
Published Nov. 17, 2014
Much like Stewart's incredibly influential television show, "Rosewater" is about navigating through troubling political times, topics and outrages with lightness, humor and humanity. And for the most part, the funnyman does a respectable job with his first go-around, his familiarity with the melding of politics and humor mostly making up for his unfamiliarity with writing and directing for the big screen.
Published Nov. 15, 2014
When most people think of "Harvey," their minds probably jump to the classic 1950 Oscar-winning Jimmy Stewart film. But before Stewart got a crack at it, the story of Elwood P. Dowd and his pooka started out on stage. Now, it's returning to its origins with a run at the Milwaukee Rep starting Tuesday, Nov. 18 in the Quadracci Powerhouse.
Published Nov. 13, 2014
For many bands, the health of the group relies on giving one another space when need be. In most cases, that's pretty easy; after all, after practice or a gig, usually everyone can go in their separate directions. That's a little bit difficult for Chris Wagoner and Mary Gaines, the core duo of the Madison-based jazz band The Stellanovas, who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year.