Grown Ups 2 (**)

grown_ups_two_ver3I don’t think there’s anyone out there who actually expected Grown Ups 2 to be a good movie, especially those of us who saw the first one (and judging by the box office/this being the first Adam Sandler vehicle to be given a sequel, there’s plenty) and knew what to be prepared for. As if to torture me, this is one of the dumbest films of 2013, but few movies this year have made me chuckle as much as this one. Yes, somehow one of the five most poorly made flicks of the year so far also ranks as one of the five funniest as well, leading to my perhaps forgiving two and a half star rating. Sandler is again collecting a massive paycheck (he’s a co-writer here in addition to acting and producing) to hang out with his buddies while halfheartedly pandering a message about getting older, though most of the time this flick lacks a plot entirely and seems almost like drunken home movies. Sandler must have really enjoyed spending time with Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade, since this really only seems meant to amuse them and the large cast that’s taken along for the ride. Director Dennis Dugan is an old hand at giving the star what he wants and doesn’t even attempt to do anything different here. Still, almost in spite of myself, I laughed at about a third of the jokes here, which isn’t ideal for a comedy but is far better than this deserves. It shames me to admit this, but for a bad movie, it’s actually a bit enjoyable.

Instead of being a portrait of a summer spent on vacation, this time around we’re treated to a day in the life of our “grown ups” (minus Rob Schneider for some unexplained reason) during the very beginning of summer. Lenny Feder (Sandler) has moved his family home to where he grew up, allowing him basically hang out every day with Eric Lamonsoff (James), Kurt McKenzie (Rock), and Marcus Higgins (Spade), while their respective wives and/or children are at work or school. They’re the height of immaturity, though Lenny’s wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek), Eric’s wife Sally (Maria Bello), and Kurt’s wife Deanne (Maya Rudolph) are hardly all serious either. All of their kids are starting to develop their own lives too, though up until now Marcus has avoided all of that…that is until Braden (Alexander Ludwig), the son he never knew, comes to town. As much as this might sound like a plot point, it’s only touched on here and there, as the quartet mostly screw around and then have a big party where every single member of the cast, big or small, can come together. It’s pretty lazily made, but even the lazy jokes managed to make me smile here and there.

grown-ups-2-600x400There’s no way to even really pretend that what’s going on here can be referred to as acting. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade are just getting paid to goof off. They’re amusing, I can’t deny that completely, but no one here is making an effort. Sandler and Spade actually have dramatic beats during the third act, but James and Rock are just on hand to be silly. The women are again mostly ignored, which is a bummer considering that Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, and Salma Hayek are talented ladies, but they pretty much serve to be referenced as too attractive for their spouses. The rest of the cast is mostly filled with Happy Madison veterans like Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Colin Quinn, Nick Swardson, and more, but some odd new additions include the aforementioned Ludwig, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Taylor Lautner, and yes…even Shaquille O’Neal, among others. No one is to be taken seriously though, that’s for damn sure.

At this point, I don’t think what Dennis Dugan does with these films can be called directing. He just gives Adam Sandler an outlet and makes sure the camera is rolling. Dugan isn’t to blame for the many shortcomings here, but he’s not exactly part of the solution either. The same goes for Sandler, who co-wrote the very loose screenplay (if it even counts as that either) with Tim Herlihy and Fred Wolf. It’s shoddy workmanship all around, made bearable by a solid classic rock soundtrack and the ability to make even a tough customer like me laugh. I’m not proud that the jokes worked on me, but they did nevertheless.

I freely admit that Grown Ups 2 is a pretty crummy movie, but while a little piece of me died every time that I laughed, enough of my is in need of resuscitation that I know this actually is a moderately amusing flick. Don’t even attempt to go into this film expecting something quality, but if the first one made you giggle, this one likely will too. That’s more or less what happened to me, so at least you know you’re not alone…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!