At the core of the characters Adam Sandler built his film persona with (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy) was anger. While he managed to soften his image over the years in some successful romantic comedies with Drew Barrymore, our primary memory of Sandler involves him screaming his lungs out and contorting his face like the modern heir to Jerry Lewis.
Now that he's closing in on 50 and has been one of the few consistently bankable comedy stars over the last 15 years, there's not much left for Adam Sandler to be mad at, and as he creeps into middle age it will become harder and harder for him to make pure unadulterated id funny without being incredibly repetitive or just off-putting. That conundrum is why we get stuck with forgettable dreck like Grown Ups 2, which allows Sandler to let himself be covered in deer urine in the movie's opening scene and provide Kmart with constant product placement throughout its 101 minutes.
The film reteams him with Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James, and pretty much every single member of his extended comedy family (with one notable exception) for a series of gags hung on the very thin premise that these childhood friends are enjoying the last day of school for their own kids by throwing an epic ’80s-themed party. There are nods to other events in their lives -- James' character worries his children are idiots, Sandler's wife (Salma Hayek Pinault) wants a baby -- but there's no reason to develop anything when you can dress up Steve Buscemi like Flavor Flav, or let Nick Swardson run around in his underwear as a drug-addled school-bus driver.
Even with these supposed comedy geniuses in place, every take feels like the first one; the whole thing feels rushed and perfunctory. Sure there is a chuckle or two along the way, but this is a deeply lazy movie, so much so that it's set over the course of a single day for no reason other than the whole production saves money on costuming that way.
Sandler is capable of being an interesting actor, he was first-rate in the very uneven Spanglish, and nobody ever used him better than Paul Thomas Anderson, who crafted Punch-Drunk Love around Sandler's core of anger and still managed to give us his sweet side at the same time. Without the rage, Sandler is a snore willing to crank out fart and poop jokes without an ounce of flair. It's kind of amazing that he didn't just confess this lack of inspiration by dressing as his character from The Wedding Singer for the climactic ’80s party.
The only interesting question about Grown Ups 2 is where is Rob Schneider, one of the costars of the first film and a lucky talisman for Sandler throughout his charmed career. Either Schneider has offended his old friend in some way, or the star of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo actually had the self-respect to say no to a project he could see was a massive waste of time and energy. leave a comment --Perry Seibert