“I think your mother’s here from Mexico. And she needs to leave.”
–Lenny (Adam Sandler)
That’s Adam Sandler’s opening joke, as he wakes up the morning before summer begins, his wife to the left of him, a reindeer to the right. There’s a glimpse at the major letdown in “Grown Ups 2”. If you went to the movie theater anytime between February and mid-July of ’13, you’d have seen the trailer, which depicted a reindeer about to stampede the house. I’ll admit, the scene made me laugh, and so did the first ten minutes. See, fellow rip-off filmmakers, that is the art of writing a movie that keeps everything funny at the beginning. It prevents theater walkouts, and you have some jokes to put in the trailer.
The thing is, I wanted to have more than ten minutes of comedy, especially as a fan of Adam Sandler’s. The one thing “Grown Ups 2” shares with decent movies–even classics–is its running time. But when the movie gets so agonizingly boring to watch, the reported “101 minutes” seems an utter falsity. “Grown Ups 2” faces the fatal flaw of not wanting to evolve its jokes from a story. It’s basically lazily written, loosely tied skits about a group of the titular grown ups and their escapades. Which are basically going to Kmart or a ballet performance and making crude jokes. So when I mean skits, I don’t just mean that Sandler’s failing by using the same technique that brought him success with SNL and “The Chanukah Song”. I mean this “comedy” is just an obnoxious mosaic of jokes. Every word feels forced here; every joke, ridiculously self-indulgent. What can I say, at least Sandler’s laughing.
(It strikes me as odd, too, that even if the movie plays out with 100% randomness, it’s immensely predictable. In the words of Max Bialystock, where did they go right?)
I don’t have a problem with Adam Sandler, in general. I’ll gladly offer that he’s given some of his best work with director Dennis Dugan. (You won’t hear this kind of praise from any other critic.) I haven’t seen “Big Daddy” or “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”, but I laughed my ass off watching “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”, the first “Grown Ups”, and “Just Go with It”. All of a sudden came 11/11/11, when the god-awful “Jack and Jill” hit wide release. I spent quite a time praying that Dugan and Sandler would never again release a film so horrendous.
It’s easier said indirectly: Sandler’s effort in “Jack and Jill” was akin to a firefighter who lets a building burn as he sits around at home. With “Grown Ups 2”, he puts the fire out in the lobby, then leaves and lets the rest burn. Having laughed only four times at “Grown Ups 2”, I can’t imagine what so suddenly happened to Sandler’s supply of “high quality H2O.”