Film review: GROWN-UPS 2, from Built For Speed

The knives were out for Grown-Ups 2 long before it hit our shores.  Not only is this an Adam Sandler film (he leads the cast and co-wrote the film) it’s also a sequel to another lame Adam Sandler film.  About 20 minutes in, though, the film seems to be defying expectations.  Aside from a ludicrous sequence involving a deer invading Lenny Feder’s (Adam Sandler) home, Grown-Ups 2 appears to be an amiable, white picket-fence suburban comedy about the pressures of middle-age, career, family and the lingering disappointments of a troubled youth.  As in the similarly-themed This Is the End, however, the potential for an amusing mid-life crisis flick soon goes gurgling down the S-bend as the film reverts to Sandler formula and turns into a jumble of grating, childish, boob, fart and testicle kicking gags and aimless, half-formed sub-plots.

Lost somewhere in the mess of Grown Ups 2 is a potentially warm-hearted story about four Gen X Dads trying to cope with ageing bodies, dwindling self-respect, kids with low self-esteem and that eternal menace, Taylor Lautner.  Sandler’s Lenny is a typical downtrodden schmuck who is troubled by memories of being bullied at high school and the fear that the same fate is befalling his son Keithie (Cameron Boyce).  Chris Rock is a father of a teen girl trying to deal with an annoying young Urkel-like kid who’s determined to date his daughter. David Spade is an irresponsible man-child who has to cope with the sudden appearance of a large violent son he never knew he had. Kevin James is a Mama’s boy and closet day-time soap fan who tries to hide this shameful secret from his wife.  All four have their dignity threatened by arrogant frat boys led by Andy (an uncredited Taylor Lautner) who have taken over their child hood hang-out.

This film at times feels like a collection of outtakes from a sketch comedy as it skips from one weak gag to another with barely a discernible plot-line.  Just when it seems to be spiralling in the Movie 43 abyss, though, Grown Ups 2 produces a couple of genuinely funny lines, most of which involve the middle-aged guys’ incredulity at ridiculous Gen Y behaviour.  Unfortunately, these slivers of wit are painfully scarce.

Sandler does his weary, knowing sarcastic routine here so, thankfully, we’re not subjected to infantile whining Sandler although he does unleash a couple of his patented crazed bellows.  Kevin James looks about as enthusiastic as someone going to the guillotine in this film as he lumbers through lame dialogue and a succession of pratfalls. Chris Rock provides his usual spark although there’s precious little in the way of funny dialogue with which he can work. David spade wheels out the same self-loathing weasel routine he has done for the last 20 years.

Selma Hayek as Lenny’s wife and Steve Buschemi as a strange driving instructor add some star wattage to the film but the mind boggles as to why credible actors like them would want to demean themselves by appearing in this film.

Grown Ups 2 also features the comic stylings of wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin as Lenny’s now adult bully and basket baller Shaquille O’Neal as a gigantic crazed cop.  A plethora of additional characters are hurled at the screen for no purpose other than cheap laughs; a couple of gay characters are introduced simply so the film can include gay jokes. Also, Jon Lovitz one of the funniest people around, appears in a couple of scenes just so he can leer at women.

To its credit the film has a kind of bubbly energy and punches out the gags at a fair rate. If, like the seven year old kid in the audience who cackled all the way through this film, you enjoy Sandler’s brand of ultra-juvenile humour you will probably love this film. If, however you value the art of film comedy and wish to retain your faith in humanity, you are well advised to give this film a wide berth.

Nick’s rating: One and a half stars.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Dennis Dugan.

Release date: 26th Sept 2013.

Running time: 101 mins.

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