Review: Grown Ups 2

Maybe Adam Sandler is a genius. Maybe he took all of Hollywood’s money, told them he was going to make a family comedy, and instead intentionally crafted the most horrifying depiction of inhuman behavior since That’s My Boy. Or maybe Jack & Jill. Or maybe Blue Velvet. Maybe I was “supposed” to leave the theater feeling unclean and abused. Maybe Grown Ups 2 is The Human Centipede for a PG-13 crowd, and Sandler is such a deft comedian, and director Dennis Dugan is such a subtle craftsman, that they have actually tricked innocent audiences into laughing at base criminality disguised as harmless whimsy.

Maybe the joke is on you, dear audience, for laughing at anything Adam Sandler does, and maybe Adam Sandler can’t believe he’s getting away with it. I’m pretty sure you can’t get “indicted for movie,” but the makers of Grown Ups 2 seem like they’re trying to get caught regardless.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Grown Ups 2 is just a bad film. Not the pandering roadside attraction that was Jack & Jill, nor the perverse justification of parental abuse that was That’s My Boy, but a far more insidious form of awful that appears for all intents and purposes to be a family-friendly picture, and yet is, in actuality, a display of borderline sociopathic storytelling. It smiles on the outside but is secretly cruel and unfeeling. It seemed like such a nice movie. Kept to itself mostly. But enter its little world and all of a sudden fathers are hilariously breaking their son’s legs, yelling horrors at their daughters and staring hornily at a stage full of pre-teen ballerinas.

That last part is true, although the so-called grown ups in Grown Ups 2 are focusing their attentions on the cartoonishly sexualized adult female dancer in front of their children. The fathers of the little girls in the audience at this dance recital drool wolfishly at this woman while their little daughters cavort throughout their peripheral vision, doing the exact same dance moves as the lady being dehumanized. By their fathers. Grown Ups 2 thinks this is funny. I suspect Grown Ups 2 might even think this is relatable. I suspect Grown Ups 2 may have been made for the wrong people.

Early in Grown Ups 2, a janitor hijacks a women’s aerobics class and tricks the students into twisting themselves into revealing positions for his own sexual amusement. The movie laughs it off as a throwaway gag, but – and admittedly I’m no lawyer – I’m relatively certain that he may have committed a crime. Or at the very least that he should have been fired, that the women in question would probably feel at least somewhat violated, and that the scene should not have continued before the management at the gymnasium was consulted and a formal complaint had been filed. But this is Grown Ups 2, a movie where men are just like that and women have no recourse but to shrug it off because this universe does not care for them.

I’ve said this before, but Adam Sandler movies used to be funny. At least, I think that they were. The difference is that Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore at least admitted that all these Sandlerian shenanigans were antisocial, and clearly the products of a diseased or at least emotionally stunted mind. The important thing was that the characters in the film actually grew out of their manchildish disregard for the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of others. That, or the brunt of the grotesque jokes were at least aimed at broad villain archetypes who clearly deserved some form of karmic punishment, whether it came in the form of Sandler or some other unholy force of nature.

In Grown Ups 2, everyone just makes fun of a character played by first-time actress Kris Murrell because she’s very muscular. The men and women of Grown Ups 2 alike make callous remarks about her constantly, suggesting publicly, to her face and at horribly inappropriate times that she must have a penis because she doesn’t fit traditional standards of femininity. It’s not funny that a film with such a hackneyed anti-bullying message would condone bullying throughout its entire running time, and at no point even bother to tack on a little message about how wrong everyone was for doing it. There’s a lot that’s not funny in Grown Ups 2.

Is there a plot? Not really. Grown Ups 2 takes place over 24 hours in generic small town America, where Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock muddle their way through barely-there storylines that your typical sitcom could easily wrap up in 22 minutes. Chris Rock’s wife forgot their anniversary. Kevin James’ wife doesn’t appreciate him. Adam Sandler’s wife wants to have another kid (movie code for “I’m already pregnant”). David Spade has a son he never knew he had. Their kids are dating or getting beat up at school. At some point an army of 40-somethings in 1980s costumes fights an army of frat boys led by a backflipping Taylor Lautner while J. Geils plays in the background.

That last part is actually kind of funny. At the very least it offers a kind of Where’s Waldo? distraction from the movie itself. Hey, look, it’s a Robert Palmer background dancer. Oh neat, there’s a Pat Benatar. Remember The Wedding Singer? So does the audience. We wish we were watching it right now.

Grown Ups 2 begins with projectile deer piss and ends with a fart, a sneeze and a burp simultaneously. I suspect therein lies the secret of Adam Sandler’s recent comedic output. It’s entirely possible that he’s gone so far with this brand of anti-social humor that only the most disgusting behavior imaginable makes him laugh anymore, like a pornography addict who can no longer get aroused by the missionary position. Even a fart seems blasé to Adam Sandler. He has to escalate that fart into a cacophony of childish sound effects before he can even tell if he’s being funny. He’s lapped the audience completely and left us all behind, wondering what the hell he’s giggling about and whether he could even let us in on the joke without losing our sympathy entirely.

Maybe, just maybe, Adam Sandler is ahead of his time, elevating inappropriate humor to fourth-dimensional planes that we can’t even see with our naked eyes. Generations to come will look back at films like Grown Ups 2 and say they’re just one bukkake scene away from feeling contemporary in the desensitized year of 2065. The future seems like it might be a disturbing place, and I think that I may not want to live there.

William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.


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