A few years ago, after a screening of Grown Ups, I was convinced that I had just witnessed the single worst movie ever projected. Once the initial shock towards Sandler and company’s cinematic ineptitude passed and I was able to think clearly again, I determined that in Hollywood’s 100-plus year history, there had to be at least one movie worse than Grown Ups. I just hadn’t seen it yet.
If there’s one thing Adam Sandler has had going for him since 2010, it’s been consistency. The man’s got the exact the opposite of a Midas touch; everything he’s involved in turns to shit (though maybe I’m the fool, since he still seems to draw a crowd). Zookeeper, Just Go with It, Jack and Jill, Bucky Larsen, and That’s My Boy are all unfathomably terrible. And now the trend continues with Grown Ups 2: a spectacular failure, so lacking in anything that even resembles a story or characters, I hesitate to even call it a movie.
I’m pretty sure Grown Ups 2, like its predecessor, exists only as an excuse for Sandler and his friends to get paid for hanging out together (a large portion of the film takes place during a party, composed with plenty of super wide shots so none of them even have to fake it). The “plot” is bluntly laid out in the opening scenes: Sandler (since the filmmakers didn’t bother fleshing him out as an actual character, I’m not going to bother pretending he’s not just playing a version of himself) has moved back to his small childhood hometown, leaving behind his successful career in Hollywood so he can live a simpler life and focus more time on his wife, Salma Hayek, and their three kids.
It’s odd then, that the entire movie consists of Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Nick Swardson (apparently taking Rob Schneider’s place, since he’s weirdly absent and whose character is completely unacknowledged despite his prominence in the original) screwing around together. It’s mostly poo-poo jokes (James’ character is most notable for his ability to simultaneously fart, sneeze, and burp), casual racism, vague homophobia, and bodily harm (I’m surprised every character survives).
The family that’s supposedly important enough for him to abandon his career and uproot his entire life is almost completely absent until the third act. I don’t really care, it’s not like I long for more footage of Sandler tucking kids into bed or watching his daughter’s dance recital (this is one of the few scenes which does involve his family, but ends up focusing instead on the instructor’s ample cleavage) – it’s just a disconnect that highlights the script’s clumsiness.
The best example of Grown Ups 2’s stunning failure is the fact that the sole highlights are two brief appearances by none other than Twilight’s shirtless wonder, Taylor Lautner. Lautner, who’s previous appearances on film mostly involved him sucking all the charisma out of any given scene, plays an exaggerated fratboy who’s outrageous douchey-ness is just realistic enough to deserve a small chuckle. I’m still not sure if he was actually funny or if I was just longing for anything other than another cheap nutshot.
On the bright side (if there is a bright side), I’ve now seen at least one film that’s worse than Grown Ups.