A question that I like to ask of comedians who veer towards the edgy is if there is anything off limits when it comes to comedy. I have gotten many great answers over the years, but the one that was the most succinct came from Orlando Jones. ďNot funny, thatís off limitsĒ. There may be longer answers, but thereís not a better one. Comedy done well allows us to laugh at what makes us uncomfortable, or fearful, or just the absurdity of life as seen from a slightly skewed angle. Itís like whistling in a graveyard to keep up our collective spirits in a world that can be uncomfortable, scary, or senseless. Alas, GROWN-UPS 2 fulfills none of those functions, leaving us instead with only the graveyard of 90 minutes or so wasted on a film that is pointless, humorless, mean-spirited, and irritating. The only thing noteworthy about it is that it makes the GROWN UPS 1 look better by comparison. Not good, mind you, only better.
In this installment we find Lenny (co-writer, co-producer Adam Sandler) relocated from Los Angeles, where he was a harried by successful screenwriter, to a carefree life of hometown simplicity in his McMansion. Heís now hanging out full-time will high-school buddies Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), and Marcus (David Spade), and, for no readily apparent reason, hanging out in large chain stores that feature prominently not only on screen during several sequences, but also by name for several scenes thereafter. Product placement is more important than story here, given that there isnít so much a plot as a series of interludes featuring potables taking up considerable screen real estate while the characters talk, or wander through a grocery store, or even fidget with a childís ball that just happens to feature the logo of a food franchise.
The few, faint attempts at plot involve Lennyís wife (Salma Hayak) longing for another baby, Marcus discovering he has a teenage son (Alexander Ludwig) with anger issues, Kurtís wife (Maya Rudolph) forgetting their 20th anniversary, and Eric hanging out too much with his mother (Georgia Engel, who manages to defy the odds and remain classy). Thereís also a showdown with a testosterone-driven frat house led by Taylor Lautner, and this is how dumb the filmmaking is: not once does he rip off his shirt, arguably his best asset, even though one scene is set at a swimming party.
None of this comes as a surprise. The only reason for making this film was because the first one made $300 million, and with numbers like that, we are lucky they didnít decide to film the cast counting from one to gazillion while performing the running ďjokeĒ of the film: the Burpsnart. It involves several bodily functions, and even when, with true Sandler style, he tries to wrap up a festival of low blows and unctuous stereotypes with a tender moment, the Burpsnart constitutes the punchline.
And so it is that a school bus driver is tortured before mistaking a showroom bathroom for the real deal, Tim Meadows is reduced to a painfully unrewarding catch-phrase, and the first urination joke arrives within the first two minutes. The men are witless clods, the women are stupid, and either the media version of sexy, or heaven help them with the jokes made at their expense for falling short. The kids are treated with a confusing blend of sentiment and abuse, and the family dog is given a Mohawk. Donít ask.
GROWN UPS 2 is one long, smug, self-satisfied smirk at the audience. Thereís not a whiff of cleverness, originality, or fun. Instead, what we have here is a cynical exercise in conning an audience out of its time and money. When Mr. Sandler flashes his tushy in a diving scene, itís not for comedic effect, itís a full moon at the audience for having been hornswoggled.