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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grown Ups 2 Movie Review


"Grown Ups 2" opens with Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler) waking up and looking contentedly at his wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) still sleeping next to him. He then turns over and is facing a full grown deer, eating from a bowl on his nightstand. He tries to coax Roxanne to awake and open the window, but, when she sees the deer, she screams. The deer rears on its hind legs and pees in Lenny's face. "Grown Ups 2" doesn't get any better than a face full of piss.

Since 2010's thinly diverting "Grown Ups", Lenny has decided to move his family back to his hometown. The film picks up ten months after the move, on the last day of school, and Lenny has fully integrated back into the lives of his friends, Eric & Sally Lamonsoff (Kevin James, Maria Bello), Kurt & Deanne McKenzie (Chris Rock & Maya Rudolph), and Marcus Higgins (David Spade) and their families, which now includes Marcus's recently discovered, bitter son, Braden (Alexander Ludwig), whom he is meeting for the first time.

In addition to family, we are introduced to other townies, many of whom grew up with Lenny: Nick (Nick Swardson), the schizo-school-bus-driver; Dickie (Collin Quinn), the lifer at the local soft serve stand; Malcolm (Tim Meadows) and officer Fluzoo (Shaq O'Neal), the other African Americans in the town; Wiley (Steve Buscemi) and his wife, Penny (Cherl Oteri), who is obsessed with Lenny; Tommy Cavanaugh (Stone Cold Steve Austin), the bully from Lenny's past; and a score of others, including Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, and a smattering of the lesser-known SNL male cast (Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Taran Killam, Paul Brittain) in a cameo as a male cheerleader-car wash crew; and Jon Lovitz in an uninspired bit part as a perverted janitor at the wives' yoga studio. For the set-up, pitted against the townies is a pack of privileged, bullying college frat boys, lead by Frat Boy Andy (Taylor Lautner).

It's not surprising we don't have any of the cast's best work. This was never going to be "Frida", "Punch Drunk Love", "Spanglish" or "Everybody Hates Chris". It would have been great if it could have been a "50 First Dates", with its mix of summer escapism, slapstick and humanity. Diving into the crassest of jokes, we could still have hoped for something half as good as "There's Something About Mary" or, as the film dives into comic-book types & events, a "Malcolm in the Middle" episode with its exaggerated but very caring depiction of family.

What we get instead is a very simple, crass, frat boy film where the Sandburg side represent an inclusive, sports-bar depiction of men and their fantasies against an uber-douche caricature of the same.

To sum up the jokes: there are two telegraphed but well-executed slapstick moments with an inflatable raft. However, the main gags are men staring at huge breasts (April Rose gets to lead the bunch), Eric's ability to simultaneously belch-sneeze-fart, and a number of jokes dealing with the body: at least four scenes structured around confrontations with male nudity or the spectre of it, two depictions of vomiting, one pee-stained tiny whities set-up, and some good ol' shots to the groin.

The script is overwhelmed by the number of actors and half-developed plot points. Each of the main characters walks through his role playing his standard persona. Oteri comes off like she's workshopping an idea in an improv class after her friends started packing it in to hit the bar. And what bender landed Buscemi here? Chris Rock gets in a couple descent one-liners. Shaq is the most memorable comedic player on the screen. Alexys Nycole Sanchez, as Becky, the youngest Feder, gives the most well-rounded and likeable performance. But with a cast this large and diverse and "Grown Ups 2" to show for it, surfacing Shaq and Sanchez is like spotting two unbroken kernels of corn floating in a backed-up john.

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