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Review: ‘Grown Ups 2’ Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock & David Spade

Review: 'Grown Ups 2' Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock & David Spade

Spoiler alert: the very last
joke of “Grown Ups 2” involves a character passing gas on Salma Hayek. This is
Salma Hayek, one of the great actresses of international cinema, a global star in
multiple languages, one of the most beautiful women in the world, and an Oscar
nominee. This is Salma Hayek, who has served on the Cannes jury and has
produced and starred in several boundary-crossing Spanish language films, where
her consistency has become almost taken for granted. And here she is, in “Grown
Ups 2,” where she exists in order to model low-cut trash fashion that
spotlights her chest, and then eat a mouthful of flatulence as the final
punchline to a vanity project by some of our most famous, laziest American
comedians. This is the way our film culture ends: not with a whimper, but with
a fart.

Somehow, director Dennis Dugan
and the Adam Sandler team have managed to make a non-movie that plumbs even
further depths than the original “Grown Ups.” This sequel is even more
plot-less, even more conflict-less, even more, more, more, of less, less, less. It
is the perfect realization of a comedy desert, an endless path of jokes, and
nary a laugh to be found, most of them centered around sub-Benny Hill ogling of
women and repeated moments of pooping children and vomiting adults. Basically,
it’s a film made for brainless grunts who like to hang out all day making sub-literate
jokes about boobs and gays while watching the game. No wonder the first movie
was such a success.

With the exception of Rob
(who must have died in between films in a boating mishap so
horrifying no one ever talks about him), the whole gang is back, and they’re
welcoming former visiting Los Angeles citizen Lenny (Sandler) back home to the
suburbs. This entry seems focused on the more mundane aspects of the characters’
lives, specifically centered around their children beginning to grow up, facing
the same issues the gang encountered in their youth. Judging by the advice they pass
down, and how it benefits the kids, this gang must have had the easiest collective
childhood in the world: every problem each child encounters is miraculously
fixed thanks to random last minute interventions. “Grown Ups 2” might have the
greatest absence of tension of any studio film made in the last twenty years,
as our heroes never once fall prey to indecision or fear, and generally get
their way, even when their disapproving, nagging (but stunningly gorgeous)
wives get in the way.

Because someone needs to get in
the way of someone else, a dispute is invented out of thin air, a territorial
tussle with the local frat boys who claim the land because frat boys are always
yelling and pounding chests. Taylor Lautner, who spreads doubt that he’s in on
the joke, leads this crowd with a series of flexing postures and acrobatic
flips that suggest seizing the opportunity to show off his physicality to all
the producers in Hollywood who missed out on “Abduction,” which was once a
thing that happened. The men dodder after their young brood and wax nostalgic,
but when it comes time to throw down with kids only slightly younger, this
group has no qualms about throwing a few elbows and delivering hits that would
cause brain damage in any other film. Sandler movies: teaching an entire
generation that not only can you punch your way out of problems, but it will
also be funny!

There’s a point to be made
about these guys being over-the-hill and no-longer-with-it, especially as they
have second guesses about throwing a massive third act party centered around ’80s fashion. Of course, this isn’t a compelling question because it’s not
a question: these guys are desperately boring. Eric (Kevin James) has a vice
that essentially finds him skipping out on his wife to spend time with his
sweet elderly mother. Kurt (Chris Rock) celebrates a newfound marital freedom
by drinking non-diet Pepsi. And Higgins (David Spade), the noted lady-killer of
the bunch, just seems to follow the entire group around like a lapdog, which
proves beneficial when they go to their local hangout: not a bar, not a lake,
not even a church, but a goddamned K-Mart.

difficult to have too many negative feelings towards Sandler, who has built
this empire on giving work to his friends and former “SNL” co-workers, some of
whom have talent that is highly unemployable in any other venue. But he can’t
eliminate his instincts to hire non-actors to clown around with his buddies as
if everyone can hang equally. Giving some of the most painful line-readings of
the year is a mugging Shaquille O’Neal, who finds a sizable amount of
screen time as a former Sandler crony turned cop who doesn’t seem to do any real
police work and has no qualms with getting drunk and violent when the opportunity
calls. ESPN heads Dan Patrick and Chris Berman also surface for a couple of
gags, but their non-professional enthusiasm actually collides with the
apathetic disinterest shown by Sandler, Rock, James and Spade, creating the
collective effect of an entire cast where not a single person is interesting or
worth watching. Meanwhile, silent cameos are granted to the likes of
new-generation “SNL” cast members like Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam. Perhaps
the promise is that one day, they will have their own Salma Hayeks to fart upon.

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