Grown Ups 2 is one of the longest movie experiences I have ever been through. The film is only 110 minutes (plus 20 minutes of trailers), but it feels interminable. For instance, the film opens with Adam Sandler and various members of his movie family getting urinated on by a CGI deer. This scene may take only five minutes or so of screen time, but it feels like it’s a good 15 and counting. Sandler talks to his children, Sandler drives a bus, frat bros menace the middle-aged stars of the movie… every scene seems to take entirely too long, and to call the film a slog is to disrespect the noble peat bog.
The film staggers listlessly from scene to scene, lingering well after the last ‘punchline’ before finding some other new bodily function or physical mutant to distract the audience with. And, surprisingly, there are a whole lot of body oddities to be mined. From Tim Meadows in the world’s worst balding wig (you can see wrinkles in the bald cap), two characters with terrible fake noses, a guy with a lazy eye, Steve Buscemi, lots of doughy naked flesh, Nick Swardson with a violent bowel movement into a fake toilet at a Kmart, bald jokes, ugly jokes, short jokes, tall jokes… if you can mock someone for something, it gets mocked in this film. Unfortunately, and this is the crucial problem, it’s never funny, just cruel. Most of the characters getting picked on pretty clearly don’t deserve it and have some reason to be as damaged as they are.
A cast of huge names is wasted on this mess, including a lot of people who should know better and should be funnier. Grown Ups 2 reunites Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade, as well as Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal, Colin Quinn, and about a dozen other people from Saturday Night Live, both past and present. All of these people have been capable of funny things, or have charisma, or are legitimate actors. Some of them are all three things; in this movie, no one is capable of anything. The only one who comes off as slightly okay is Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that’s only because his character stays as far away from the comedy as possible.
The movie tries to redeem itself by pulling all the mutant townies together to fend off an assault from a gang of attractive young college students (led by Milo Ventamiglia and Taylor Lautner), but just because they’re able to band together again outsiders – we get a half-hearted scene at the end of the film showing that all these weirdos have grown up together and know/love one another in spite of their antagonism towards each other throughout the movie – that doesn’t mean that the previous behavior wasn’t hurtful. That conflict is also the entire plot of the movie, such that it has a plot. It’s mostly a collection of unfunny things happening courtesy of Sandler, Tim Herlihy, and Fred Wolf.
Part of the problem has to be put at the feet of director Dennis Dugan. He and Adam Sandler have made eight films together, yet he seems to have learned nothing about how to contribute to the comedy on screen with his style. The movie seems bloated, the camera sluggish and listless. He mostly points at a scene and then loses interest. There’s no energy and the film is riddled with both obvious product placement shots (lots of close-ups of corporate logos) and continuity errors. He’s able to keep the camera focused and pointed at the actors most of the time, so he’s got that going for him. I’m sure that’s more the cinematographer’s doing than his.
Grown Ups 2 is the first official sequel to any Adam Sandler movie, and like most sequels it’s exactly like the first film, but worse. It’s as if the Grown Ups 2 creative team is out of ideas, except they didn’t really have any ideas for the first movie, either. The Grown Ups cycle is like a vacation with friends: it can be fun for the first few days, but after that you’re sick of one another, you’re irritable from sunburn, and all you want to do is go home. The cast and crew might have had a blast making this film, but none of that fun made it onto the screen.
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