Not even two minutes into Grown Ups 2, Adam Sandler gets pissed in the face by a CGI deer. In a nutshell, it encapsulates both the context and the spirit of the latest release from Happy Madison Productions. The deer in question doing the pissing is poorly animated at best, recalling some of the more nightmarish visions of the uncanny valley. It could easily be construed as a metaphor for what Adam Sandler, a performer who we know to have both comedic and dramatic chops, is willing to do to his name for the sake of another box-office winner. But most of all, it’s telling of the feeling one will experience while watching this film. Bust out the big movable type, and lay it out for the evening edition: Grown Ups 2 feels like getting pissed in the face by a poorly-animated CGI deer.
There isn’t so much a plot to this film as there is a excuse to string up lame gag after lame gag. It’s as if the four leads, stand-up veterans all (with the possible exception of dabbler David Spade), indulged in their own worst impulses as comedians and those of every hacky doofus they’ve inspired. Grown Ups 2 scrapes the bottom of the barrel with such dogged determination and single-minded force that I would have appreciated that the same effort would have gone into the craft of the film. Partially at fault for the shoddy way the film is framed and paced is director Dennis Dugan, a TV/fart-comedy lifer whose greatest achievement is, and will likely always be, the 1992 John Turturro-starring Marx brothers knock-off Brain Donors (which is actually a pretty fun movie). Dugan has aged ungracefully into the role of de facto Happy Madison house director, managing to rob even modest pieces of gross-out humour and slapstick of any effect. Basic visual grammar need not apply; nothing is meant to hold the eye beyond Nick Swardson doing something “funny,” like making out with a dog as eating a Cheezie that was in his nose.
Grown Ups 2 is a film that practically leaks laziness. Every aspect of it feels lackadaisical to the point where I wondered aloud why they bothered making it in the first place. Performances and punchlines are limped through, and even the very fabric of the film is jagged in a way that I can’t believe is deliberate. It’s the kind of movie that is exceptionally easy to be cynical about: shamelessly crass, openly pandering, and astoundingly backward-looking on most conceivable levels. The only positive I can muster up for the film is a nicely-staged all-out brawl towards the film’s climax, which, in case you were doubting the film’s weird yuppie nostalgia, happens at an ’80s-themed party featuring the J. Geils Band. In a strange way, this feels like the a movie unstuck in time, a relic of the 1980s in 21st-century garb. But as it stands, it’s a top-to-bottom mess, and I don’t know what level of bedrock Happy Madison will have to nuke to find a new bottom.
P.S. Just for the record, I like the J. Geils Band, their early days as a shit-kicking blues band, and yeah, Freeze-Frame is pretty rad. But this movie is not. Not by a long shot. There is no reason to watch this.
Grown Ups 2 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Amazon.
Directed by Dennis Dugan; written by Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, and Fred Wolf; starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade; 101 minutes.