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Film review: 'Grown Ups 2' needs to grow up

July 15, 2013|By Bob Garver | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • This film publicity image released by Columbia Pictures shows, from left, Kevin James, David Spade, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock in a scene from "Grown Ups 2." (AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Tracy Bennett)
Tracy Bennett / AP

There's a very specific age range where one can find Adam Sandler funny. He's too dirty for very young kids (unless he's blatantly doing a kids' movie), but it doesn't take a lot of maturity to know that you've outgrown him. Let's say his target demographic is preteens.

That's how old I was when I laughed my way through “The Waterboy,” “Billy Madison” —  and the movie I've seen more times than any other in my life, “Happy Gilmore.” I haven't seen any of these Sandler “classics” in a while, partly because I have plenty of new films to see and partly because I'm afraid I wouldn't find them funny anymore. I hate the idea of revisiting a favorite like “Happy Gilmore” and finding it to be about as funny as “Grown Ups 2”. 

The film is a sequel to the equally useless 2010 comedy. I made the mistake of watching the first film in preparation for this one, and I can tell you that there is no reason to do so unless you have a really strong desire to get a joke where a minor character raises both hands at once. The films focus on a group of middle-aged guys trying to prove to each other, their families, and themselves that they're still fun. Of the five guys in the original, four are back: Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade. I figured the new film would have to be at least somewhat of an improvement since Rob Schneider decided to sit this one out, but I was wrong. As happy as I was to not have to tolerate him, I was even more unhappy with who I had to tolerate in his place. 

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When the guys aren't enjoying their favorite pastime of making fun of each other, they make fun of an array of one-joke supporting characters. They have plenty to choose from: bumbling cops, psycho ex-girlfriends, a female bodybuilder, a prank-prone principal, kid bullies, adult bullies, frat boys from the local college, grown-up classmates whose lives haven't gone well, and other assorted weirdoes. Most grating (and therefore the heir apparent to Rob Schneider) is a screechy, drugged-out bus driver played by Nick Swardson. The guys' wives (Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph are married to Sandler, James, and Rock respectively) and kids are the only halfway interesting supporting characters and they get shoehorned to make room for a bunch of gimmicky morons. 

The humor is a mix of insults, violence and gross-out gags. The insults are pretty lame and the gross-outs are cheap and uninspired, though perhaps the preteen target audience hasn't seen them done to death yet (then again, I wouldn't be surprised if they have). A scant few violent physical gags do work, and if you email me at rrg251@nyu.edu I'll tell you which prop is funny enough to keep the film from getting One Star. OK, and it is kind of funny when the kids struggle to understand their parents' technology and pop culture references. 

It's a wonder that “Grown Ups 2” made so much money this past weekend when so much of the audience for the first one is too mature for Adam Sandler now. I suppose many of them don't know it yet. It takes a few junk movies for fans to get Sandler out of their system. They see his toilet humor and hear his yelling (yes, he still thinks his obnoxious yelling is comedy gold) and they wonder why they don't find it funny. They wonder if the problem is with him or them. 

To these people I say: The problem is with him for thinking you'll continue to find his juvenile antics amusing. But the change is in you because you want something better than what he has to offer. Trust me, it's not hard to find something better than “Grown Ups 2.”

One and a Half Stars out of Five.

“Grown Ups 2” is rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive content, language and some male rear nudity. Its running time is 101 minutes. 

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu


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