With Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, David Spade. Written by Fred Wolf & Adam Sandler & Tim Herlihy. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language. 101 minutes.
The march of time can be cruel to comic actors. In the 1930s, it was the Marx Bros. and Laurel and Hardy. They continued working into the 1950s, but were supplanted in the 1940s by Abbott and Costello who became kings of the box office. By the 1950s, that duo’s best work was behind them and the audience turned to Martin and Lewis. It has been much the same in recent decades. There was a time when people like Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy could turn a movie into comedy gold. They got older and got replaced by the likes of Adam Sandler and Martin Lawrence. Now, with GROWN UPS 2, Sandler and his aging pack of friends try desperately to keep up with lowest common denominator comedies like “The Hangover” and “The Heat,” and only to find no one cares any more.
A wholly unnecessary sequel to the 2010 film, “Grown Ups 2” reunites four of the five friends from the original. (In what may have been the smartest move of his career, Rob Schneider does not return.) We know we’re in Sandler territory when the first “joke” involving urination takes place not two minutes into the film. There will be more, with some poop and vomit gags… you know, just to mix it up a little. Then, because this is geared toward adolescent boys, there will be much PG-13 leering at women’s bodies, and much revulsion at looking at male bodies.
The theme of the movie is bullying. Lenny (Sandler) is afraid of Tommy (Steve Austin), who bullied him in high school. Marcus (David Spade) is intimidated when he meets Braden (Alexander Ludwig), the teenage son he didn’t know he had, and sees a knife-wielding thug covered with tats. Eric (Kevin James) is afraid to discuss things with his wife (Maria Bello) and so hides at his mother’s (Georgia Engel) house. Lenny, Marcus, Eric, and Kurt (Chris Rock) let themselves be pushed around and humiliated by local frat boys.
You can probably guess how all these stories turn out although you might not be expecting a rumble at an ‘80s theme costume party between the townies and the frat boys. The question is whether it’s funny. Well, if you think seeing David Spade lick the biceps of a woman body-builder pumped up on steroids is funny, you’ll be beside yourself with laughter. How about a school bus driver on drugs? A man trying to fix a chocolate soft serve ice cream machine so it looks like he’s soiling himself? A woman who shared some bubble gum with Lenny in sixth grade and who now thinks that means they still have a connection? How about a man (Tim Meadows) whose response to everything is to say, “What?” These are the jokes, folks.
Sandler–who co-wrote the script of “Grown Ups 2” and cast it with his friends and some family–will turn 47 this September. For most people this is the prime of life. However, slapstick comedy is like professional sports, in that it ages one prematurely, so Sandler is an old man in that regard. It’s like watching your parents do pratfalls or, even worse, make out.
He might look at how Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy segued into dramatic roles or character comedies as they moved on (he attempted it in “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Reign Over Me” but has not continued since). Sandler has to figure out how to survive in a world where Melissa McCarthy is now a star for playing aggressively stupid characters in “Identity Thief” and “The Heat.” And note to McCarthy, who turns 43 next month: enjoy it while you can. Your successors are already coming up behind you.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.