It’s hard to describe how terribly unfunny 2010’s “Grown Ups” was, and even more of a challenge to capture the ineptitude of this week’s “Grown Ups 2” with words, other than to say I might need to increase my rating for “Hangover Part III” by a half star just to make space for this one in the proverbial dumper. I probably should have taken that into account earlier this year, considering that the team of director Dennis Dugan and writer/comedian extraordinaire Adam Sandler are a virtually unstoppable force, having produced a film almost every year since 2007’s lackluster-at-best “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”, and growing more tiresome ever since then (both “Just Go With It” and “Jack and Jill” made several “Worst Of” lists in 2011, including mine). The smart money said that this film was going to be terrible, but I thought at least there was the possibility of improvement.
But somehow, it’s gotten worse. By coining terms like “burpsnart”, which refers to a rapid succession of three bodily functions (I’ll let you guess which ones they are – it is performed several times in this movie), upping the number of “PG-13 friendly” phallic references to new levels and spending too much time on the antics of irrelevant side characters, none of which are the slightest bit inspired but are undeniably eye-catching, they’re sure to earn the respect of kids under the age of twelve while simply annoying the poor parents who’ve taken them to see it. And if that doesn’t do it, the urinating deer will.
“Grown Ups 2” takes place over the course of one very long day (at 100 minutes, it is interminable) in which Lenny (Sandler), Kurt (Chris Rock), Eric (Kevin James) and Marcus (David Spade) are celebrating the start of summer (Rob Schneider is notably absent in this one), but are really just dealing with the same mundane domestic situations that were presented in the first film (it regurgitates several familiar scenarios, too – think pee in the pool) while improvising their way through its vacant script. Lenny, of course, is the center of the film’s attention, having made a boatload of money in California and now settled back in his hometown in suburban America with his wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) and three kids, who are not only the least juvenile of the bunch but are also the high point of the film (I must give credit to Alexys Nycole Sanchez, who is adorable as Lenny’s daughter).
Kurt and Eric are just along for the ride, so to speak, as Lenny procures a school bus from its psychotic driver, played by an almost unwatchable Nick Swardson, who is self-medicating because his wife left him after three weeks because of some ridiculously lewd act involving a banana (Swardson tags along most of the way like a drunk clown, as always given carte blanche in the freaky idiot department).
Marcus, basically a toned-down version of Spade’s much funnier bachelor character in the show “Rules of Engagement”, discovers that he has a hulking, ne’er-do-well son who arrives at the train station for the last day of school with an innate urge to inflict bodily harm upon his diminutive dad. It’s an opportunity for some sort of comedy, or at least a plot. But like everything else in this laugh-free buddy comedy, it’s presented strictly for silly gags and a barrage of dried out jokes, most of which don’t even make sense within the context of their scenes.
I’d be curious to see the actual script for “Grown Ups 2” – the addition of Tim Herlihy to the original “Grown Ups” writing team of Sandler and Fred Wolf would suggest that one actually exists. Though, three writers for this nonsense? The whole thing is like really, really bad improv; the “jokes” are half-cocked when not completely ill-conceived, spliced together like a series of DVD outtakes that make the recent “Three Stooges” film look like intelligent comedy. I’d never dismiss something simply for being juvenile; when that type of comedy is done right, it can be hilarious (“Super Troopers”, for example). But once again, Sandler is more concerned about fitting the entire Happy Madison ensemble into the picture than with the writing, and it’s evident that everyone involved is just waiting for a paycheck.
Returning characters played by Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Steve Buscemi, Peter Dante, Allen Covert and countless others are all their typical, interchangeable selves within the Happy Madison universe. Shaquille O’Neal has a glorified cameo as a police officer who likes to break into dance and takes showers at the car wash (as funny as that might sound on paper, it’s not, and that particular scene gets even dumber), and “Twilight” alum Taylor Lautner goes uncredited – which should tell you something – as a frat boy who performs random, inexplicable acrobatics and has a ridiculous fixation on showing the returning middle-aged cast what’s what (apparently, they’re losers just for being old). If you’re familiar with Milo Ventimiglia, a very talented dramatic actor, you’ll wonder what the hell he’s doing here as Lautner’s overzealous frat brother.
The only truly funny thing about this movie is that they’re undoubtedly going to make bank off of being completely complacent. “Grown Ups 2”, the laziest comedy I’ve seen in recent memory, will certainly fund Sandler’s next few trips to Hawaii.