Silver Screen: Grown Ups II zero stars
There are several points during Grown Ups II when a reasonable person might be inspired to walk out of the theater. The first instance comes just minutes into the movie, when a deer breaks into Adam Sandler’s house and pees on his face-- you know, like deer do. But perhaps the biggest “Screw this, I’m outta here” moment comes near the very end of the movie, when it’s almost too late anyway: Nick Swardson makes out with a dog, which causes a gay Indiana Jones impersonator to throw up in front of Stone Cold Steve Austin while Chris Rock’s daughter sings a duet with the J. Geils Band.
Grown Ups II isn’t just bad, it’s a relentless assault on the concept of quality. It mocks the very idea of making an effort.
Star Adam Sandler has grown so complacent in recent years that it seems he chooses projects based on whether or not he can stay in cargo shorts and sandals while making them. And so there is this sequel to his tepid but financially successful 2010 family comedy, which is a new nadir, or at the very least a continuation of the ice-cold streak of his last four starring vehicles: Grown Ups, Just Go With It, Jack and Jill, and That’s My Boy.
These movies are especially frustrating because Sandler is a funny guy. Even after a stretch of abysmal, shoddily strung together sequences from artless director Dennis Dugan, Sandler will have some small interaction with another character that reminds you just how effortlessly charming he can be.
But these moments have become fewer and farther between as the movies grow increasingly strained, lacking even the admirable strangeness of earlier misfires like Little Nicky or You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Sandler used to intersperse his more commercial enterprises with interesting collaborations-- for every couple of Clicks or Anger Managements he’d venture outside his comfort zone with Punch-Drunk Love or Spanglish or Reign Over Me. It’s been four years since Funny People, and a brutal four years at that. To compensate for these latest debacles, he’s going to have to grab a Ouija Board and get Orson Welles to direct his next picture from beyond the grave.
This sorry excuse for a summer romp takes place during the course of a single, patience-testing day. Rich guy Lenny (Sandler) is so wonderful and downright Sandlerian that he moves his whole family away from Hollywood to live a simple, small-town existence along with his old pals, including momma’s boy Eric (Kevin James), uptight working stiff Kurt (Chris Rock), and grungy womanizer Marcus (David Spade). Rob Schneider has been deleted from the official record.
Everyone, both young and old, is dealing with a bully problem. Lenny and pals are menaced by cartoon frat boys led by Taylor Lautner and Milo Ventimiglia. Lenny’s son is being pushed around by a bigger kid, while Marcus is threatened by his own seemingly murderous eighteen-year-old son. The obvious solution is for Lenny to throw one of his famous parties, where, for no reason at all, the aforementioned J. Geils Band shows up to sing a live version of one of the awful 1980s pop hits that scores Sandler productions.
Grown Ups II is one long, wretched pander. There are fart jokes for the kids, hunky yoga guy jokes for the ladies, and endless ogling of bikini babes for the guys. But mostly bikini babes and farts. As usual, several living punchlines in the form of fat, unattractive, or foreign people walk by so Sandler can crack wise on them. Oh, that wit! It’s a tiresome formula that’s turning into a holy war on moviegoers.
I’m still not convinced that an aged Andy Kaufman won’t one day take off his Sandler mask, point at us, start laughing, and say, “I can’t believe you people watched all this garbage!”
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.