Every once in a while, a circle of Hollywood friends come together, work on a script, take pay cuts, and turn out a truly memorable and entertaining film. That film was "This Is the End," folks. "Grown Ups 2," on the other hand, is Hollywood laziness at its most obvious.
Adam Sandler once again gets together with his buddies Chris Rock, Kevin James, and David Spade for another crass, crude, generally plot-less pseudo comedy packed to the gills with poop, pee, and vomit jokes. These are the guys who still think making fart sounds with their hands and underarms is not only funny, it's fall-on-the-floor hilarious.
For fans of Sandler and his crew, I will say that this is an improvement on the first "Grown Ups" movie, which I thought was darn-near unwatchable. This one has some big laughs and there is a climactic battle royale between Sandler and all of his thirty- and forty-something co-stars and Taylor Lautner and dozens of young, bullying fraternity brothers at a 1980s-themed party. The film, at its core, is about being bullied and standing up to bullies and claiming one's community. Some nice sentiments, but so much of it is lost amidst the rampant, third-grade level stabs at humor.
The cast for this flick is indeed HUGE. Two-thirds of the cast from "Saturday Night Live" circa 1989 are in this thing, including Tim Meadows, Colin Quinn, Ellen Cleghorne, Jon Lovitz, and more. There are cameos from a few more recent SNL-ers like Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, and Taram Killam. It's like a great, big "Where's Waldo" picture flickered across the screen, and that's not even getting into the truly talented A-list talent Sandler continues to be able to blackmail -- er, convince to appear in his movies like Steve Buscemi, Salma Hayek, and Maria Bello.
The problem is it is SO all over the map. Sandler and Co. are in a weird part of their entertainment life where they still want to enjoy the crude humor of their younger days and earlier flicks, but they are all now fathers and husbands so they have a need and desire to make family-friendly fare.
The domestic jokes involving soiled diapers and henpecking wives are total sitcom level yuks. But they're mixed in with bits involving every body fluid you can think of. Seriously, in the first five minutes of this film, a moose douses Adam Sandler and the teenage boy playing his son with pee.
There are also recurring bits with the always-unwelcome Nick Swardson in which the guy will be humiliated in any and every way Sandler and his posse deem possible. There are some truly gross bits here involving defecating in a Kmart and eating Cheetos that have been stuffed up his snot-filled nose.
Clearly, Sandler is able to bring together an enormous amount of talented people and get them to do whatever he wants. I imagine there is a genuine sense of play on each of his sets. So, why not be at the service of a genuinely good screenplay? There have been times, a la "The Wedding Singer" and "Anger Management," where there is good, solid comedy work being done with interesting and eclectic casts.
I don't think he has to "grow up" to turn out another legitimately good comedy with his friends. I just think he needs to work with some better talent behind the scenes. This latest warrants no better than a 4 out of 10. (T. Durgin)