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Grown Ups 2
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by Brett Gallman

"This is the rear end."
2 stars

As someone who was raised on “Saturday Night Live” in the 90s, I’ll always hope for the best from the alumni of that era. That said, the nicest thing I can say about “Grown Ups 2” is that it features a lot of them.

In fact, there are more of them here (along with other familiar faces from the Happy Madison troupe) than in the first film—which also happens to be the only way I could consider this an improvement over its predecessor (and your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for this bunch). Not much else has changed: this is the same formless, madcap misadventure as before, only it’s further amped up, so the burping and farting are louder and even combined. At one point, apropos of nothing, Kevin James burps, sneezes, and farts in a parking lot, a feat that becomes the leitmotif of “Grown Ups 2,” a movie that’s so unabashedly juvenile and dumb that it ascends to some weird plane of existence where you can feel its contempt for the art of comedy and the medium of film.

That it opens with a deer pissing in Adam Sandler’s face and closes with the latter farting on Salma Hayek doesn’t even capture what a bizarre assault “Grown Ups 2” is. From start to finish, it’s just an incessant string of puerile scat jokes and some strange form of mean-spirited physical comedy that approaches "Salo" by way of "Looney Tunes."

Like the first film, it dispenses with any semblance of an actual plot; at least the original had the pretense of a frame story involving these guys’ old rec-league basketball coach passing away, but this one just casually reveals that Lenny Feder (Sandler) and family have moved back to his old hometown, where…well, let’s just say it’s a place where things happen. The vaguely New England town must be situated near Stephen King’s Maine or resting on the portal of the Twilight Zone because it’s populated by beings that are barely human. Assuming that pod people abducted the actual cast here and replaced them with alien husks might be the only way to explain how it wastes so much decent talent.

Anyway, the hook this time is that it’s the last day of school, so the free-floating, devil-may-care approach to the narrative could be seen as an homage to “Dazed and Confused” if we weren’t already familiar with the fact that the first movie also couldn’t didn’t give a shit about an actual plot, either. Instead, it plays like Linklater’s film if it were re-imagined by sociopaths or aliens. If the first film amounted to watching a bunch of rich people on vacation, then this one’s more like watching their daily itinerary, which includes shirking whatever actual duties they have by hanging out at K-Mart and driving their kids’ school bus in lieu of the drug-addled maniac that’s typically behind-the-wheel (Nick Swardson, who comes off as the cast member that everyone else must really hate).

Faint subplots emerge and expect you to laugh at the fact that Lamonsoff’s (Kevin James) son is probably mentally handicapped because his wife (Maria Bello) refuses to correct the kid when he’s wrong (that they didn’t recycle the breast-feeding gag from the original might be the biggest surprise here). Serial womanizer Higgins (David Spade) discovers he’s got a long lost son, who also might be mentally handicapped and psychotic. Kurt (Chris Rock) is anxious because his daughter might be going out with Tim Meadows’s kid (Meadows’s sole other function is to be the butt of bald jokes). And Lenny’s got all sorts of trouble—the wife’s begging to have another kid, which might be tantamount to instant child abuse considering he’s such a bad father already. Seriously, one of the film’s highlights involves him triumphantly realizing that his son is a prodigy at kicking field goals…before unwittingly breaking the kid’s leg.

What a strange beast this movie is. It’s most certainly a lazy cash-grab (who wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with friends in front of the camera for a paycheck, right?), which isn’t an accusation that I level lightly because I know it’s usually hard work to make a movie. “Grown Ups 2” is barely a movie, though, so I’m about as contrite as Sandler likely was while pitching it as a collection of gags without an actual script. But it’s also kind of aggressively awful and is certainly never boring it only because you’re constantly wondering just how deeply it’ll stare into the abyss. In how much contempt will it hold its women, all of whom are insufferable shrews to this boy’s club? Can it really make a subplot out of Lenny’s eccentric 6th grade crush (Cheri Oteri, dragged from the depths of the mid-2000s)? Just how badly will you feel for the few innocent souls caught in its wake? (The answer: about as badly as you can feel for people getting paid to essentially embarrass themselves.)

I’m aware that “Grown Ups 2” is low-hanging fruit—it’s not a movie with many pretenses and isn’t striving to be much more than an SNL reunion tour, so criticizing it is akin to plugging bullets into The Terminator. Its relentlessness might even be slightly admirable because, for all its laziness, it seems to be committed to being as awfully weird and offbeat as it can be, and the approach might work if it weren’t spewing forth obnoxious, terrible characters without winking at them. There have actually been more thinly-sketched romps than this in the past that have worked; in fact, the template here may well be the “Screwballs” movies, a couple of Canadian T&A romps from the 80s. But whereas those films boast an impish charm, “Grown Ups 2” is a soulless, mean farce where the nicest (and possibly funniest) guy ends up being Stone Cold Steve Austin’s schoolyard bully. Just about everyone else is too busy making fun of fat kids, awkward teen girls, and butch women.

Despite my own relentless teeth-gnashing, there are some bright spots to be found here: Steve Buschemi may be incapable of not being funny even when he’s surrounded by bullshit, and a handful of extended cameos provide of fresh air if only because they aren’t the main characters. The aforementioned Austin is sort of funny, as is Shaquille O’Neal, but these two may only be funny because they’re Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shaquille O’Neal, a couple of naturally funny personalities (like everyone else, they’re playing themselves.) Believe it or not, the film’s virtuoso performance may come from Taylor Lautner, who throws himself into the role of the wet-brained alpha male to a pack of frat boys that start picking on Lenny and crew.

He’s one of the few performers who seems to grasp the inanity of it all, so he’s a cartoonishly bronzed collection of bro-fists and idiotic back-flipping. Compared to just about everyone else, it’s positively endearing, which speaks to the level of misfiring here—this is one of those movies where the old guys have to show the youngsters that they can still party, but once everyone gathers at Lenny’s place for an 80s-themed gathering, you’re just kind of hoping that Lautner and company pummel them into oblivion with a giant keg before succumbing to alcohol poisoning.

Well, at least that’s what I hoped for—the rest of the audience worked themselves into fits as the movie reached its loony climax. Maybe the Marx Brothers would have also admired the sheer anarchy of it all, at least if it actually meant anything (and, you know, actually served as a climax to an actual story—this is just a case of Sandler flinging pickles on a window to see which one slides down the fastest).

Remember earlier this summer when we were convinced that “This is the End” could be a vanity project gone horribly awry? If nothing else, “Grown Ups 2” exists to show just what one of those might look like, only it’s being put on by a bunch of people who don’t have much reason to be vain since it’s such blatant recycling. What else would you expect from the guy who named his production company after his first two breakout hits? In a landscape dominated by man-children, Sandler might represent the most severe case of arrested development, as he's terminally trapped in the 90s

I wouldn't mind that if he were still as funny as he was back then.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24534&reviewer=429
originally posted: 07/12/13 00:10:01
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User Comments

2/09/15 isabella worst fucking movie ever!!! 1 stars
1/05/15 Mario is the Best Even worse than the first! 1 stars
9/27/13 Derek Diercksmeier Maybe the worst film ever made. 1 stars
9/01/13 Charles Tatum Plotless, Nick Swardson provides only laughs 2 stars
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  12-Jul-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 05-Nov-2013

  09-Aug-2013 (12A)

  DVD: 05-Nov-2013

Directed by
  Dennis Dugan

Written by
  Tim Herlihy
  Fred Wolf
  Adam Sandler

  Adam Sandler
  Kevin James
  Chris Rock
  David Spade
  Salma Hayek
  Maria Bello

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