Grown Ups 2 (2013)

(On Cable TV, March 2014) Sometimes, the deepest questions are spurred from the most humble origins. So it is that a lazy, self-indulgent and contemptuous film such as Grown Ups 2 can lead us to existential questions such as “Are we doomed to ever-decreasing standards of popular entertainment? Should I be ashamed of my own reactions to a film? Am I part of the problem?” Because, from the very first deer-urination moments of the film, it’s obvious that Grown Ups 2 takes the dumbest and laziest approach to comedy filmmaking. I haven’t seen the first film, but I doubt it would make much of a difference when Grown Ups 2 seems so satisfied with the broadest male-centric humor, mining bodily functions, basic life dilemmas, major insults, crass humiliation and worn-out clichés. It has the discipline of taking place on a single day, but that’s the last time “restraint” will be used to describe the aimless, quasi-random nature of the script. As series of “and this happened” episodes rather than a progression toward something meaningful, Grown Ups 2 simply strings along the gags as little skits, paying no attention to tone or logic. A massive party gets organized out of thin air, characters get to satisfy their soul-searching within moments and there’s never any attempt at creating something more complex than a simple setup-response comic structure. It’s shoddy filmmaking at best, and it’s a wonder that a low-brow film so badly conceived can not only be released theatrically, but earn a decent amount of money along the way. And yet, and yet… this is from Adam Sandler, after all, and it’s not as if audiences go in this film expecting fine writing and solid structure. Even antagonistic audience will find a few laughs during the comic carpet-bombing practiced here: I laughed a few times myself even as I was wondering how a movie could be this objectively bad. Heck, there are even a few nice things to say about various bits and pieces of the whole: Taylor Lautner turns in his most animated performance yet as a frat leader, while fans of (say) Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph and Steve Buscemi will be satisfied by their quick appearances. Should I be forced to say something nice about the script, I’d have to be impressed at the way the movie juggles along dozens of speaking characters while giving them all something to do. But the point is: Even as classically bad as it is, Grown Ups 2 has enough laughs to make it an enjoyable and undemanding weekend-evening viewing. I have enjoyed far superior movies far less, and it pains me to admit that the lowest common denominator does include all of us. I’m glad I haven’t paid a cent to see it, though.

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