Film Review: Grown Ups 2

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Plot: Lenny (Adam Sandler) and his three best friends all move their families back to their hometown. On the cusp of summer, Lenny and his pals deal with getting older, old & new enemies, and watching their own kids grow up.

Grown Ups 2 has all the same problems that many of today’s comedies have: reliance on shock jokes, lazy writing, and most egregious of all, not being funny. Make no mistake…Grown Ups 2 is not a good movie. But I’m more forgiving of this as opposed to other recent comedies, because no matter what you think of Adam Sandler, the guy is likable, and that’s why it’s hard for me to all out hate this movie despite it’s severe deficiencies.

Adam Sandler plays Adam Sandler in the movie. He’s a big likable kid who constantly references the past. But like most comedic actors, his shtick is much less annoying than the Seth Rogens, Jack Blacks, and Vince Vaughns of the world. I’ll admit there’s a personal bias as I was a massive Adam Sandler fan growing up. Sandler will never reach the heights of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, or The Wedding Singer again, but he’s always easy to root for on screen.

Sandler also has good chemistry with his three main co-stars, Kevin James, David Spade, and Chris Rock. There’s no Rob Schneider this time around, but I don’t think anyone is shedding a tear. I admit off the bat, I’m not a Kevin James fan. He’s a D-level Chris Farley, and that’s putting it lightly. But he was actually fine here, and even kind of funny. One of the long running jokes in the film is his character’s ability to fart, burp, and sneeze at the same time. This is normally a joke I would detest, but James actually sells it to being tolerable.

My favorite character was probably David Spade who was playing…David Spade. You’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned the character names these actors are playing. It’s totally irrelevant. These actors are just themselves. Spade was his usual snarky self and generally pretty funny. Then we have Chris Rock. Look, I know Chris Rock is a funny comedian, but this guy just doesn’t work in movies and never has. He’s completely nothing in this film. I can barely remember any scenes with Rock…totally forgettable.

Aside from the four main actors, there’s plenty of good supporting roles all around. The three wives played by Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph are all solid. Jon Lovitz has the best cameo as a creepy janitor. I’m saddened Lovitz never got a huge career as I always found him hysterical. Even in sub-par movies like Rat Race or High School High, he was always capable of elevating the material. Shaquille O’Neal also shows up as a cop. He’s fine, but they make an unfortunate free throw joke. Really? Joking about Shaq’s free throw abilities. I didn’t know it was still 1997.

The other two supporting roles that don’t work at all are Nick Swardson and Taylor Lautner. I was actually really curious to see what Lautner could bring to the table. Yes, he’s terrible in the Twilight movies, but you can’t tell if a person is a good actor or not from those. Marlon Brando couldn’t make those movies good. Seeing Lautner in a goofy Sandler comedy was a good post Twilight decision for him, but Grown Ups 2 is proof that he truly can’t act. Come on, you’re the overly serious guy from Twilight playing a goofy frat boy and you can’t pull it off? He’s just wooden like in everything else he does. Yea, I don’t think we’re going to hear from Taylor Lautner very much.

But the actor who really pissed me off was Nick Swardson. I don’t know why Adam Sandler keeps putting this guy in movies, but it needs to stop. Swardson is a comedy train wreck playing the man child bus driver. It doesn’t help that he’s given the absolute bottom of the barrel jokes such as drugs, gay humor, and terrible physical comedy, but Swardson’s delivery and execution makes it that much worse. This guy needs to go away.

The biggest problem with this movie though is what I mentioned at the top – it’s just not funny. I got chuckles here and there, and they even managed to organically reference 80’s jokes in a clever way unlike most comedies, but I never had one big laugh out loud moment. Other than Swardson, there’s nothing I hated about the movie though. Yes, there’s plenty of farts, shameless cutesy kid humor, and Kevin James being fat jokes, but it was never as atrocious as something like a recent Farrelly Brothers movie would have been. It’s also not very long, which is why it succeeds over something like The Internship earlier this year. It’s a crisp 100 minutes.

The nicest thing I can say about Grown Ups 2 is there’s a genuine camaraderie with these guys, they are likable, and have a strong emphasis on family in the film. For these reasons, I can’t hate this movie like so many others are doing. Is this a good film? No. Do you need to see it? No. I walked out of this movie, said ‘whatever,’ and then pretty much forgot about it. Grown Ups 2…it’s fine.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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