The first scene in “Grown Ups 2” depicts a deer urinating directly onto Adam Sandler’s face. The penultimate scene (spoiler alert) depicts the very same deer apparently castrating Taylor Lautner. These bookends are not only the film’s highlights, they also represent the closest it comes to establishing any sort of narrative throughline. Among the slackest, laziest, least movie-like movies released by a major studio in the last decade, “Grown Ups 2” is perhaps the closest Hollywood has yet come to making “Ow! My Balls!” seem like a plausible future project. It is all but guaranteed a strong opening weekend.
A follow-up to 2010’s critically savaged yet massively lucrative “Grown Ups,” this sequel introduces a few changes. Most obviously, although Dennis Dugan is back in the director’s chair and stars Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade all reprise their roles as high-school buddies turned over-the-hill dads, Rob Schneider is mysteriously missing. But more importantly, while “Grown Ups” made some often cringeworthy attempts to shoehorn maudlin life lessons and character arcs into all the crotch smashing, this sequel barely attempts to function as a piece of narrative filmmaking at all, almost immediately devolving into a hash of frantic, random incidents strung together with the slimmest sliver of coherence.
Like “Mrs. Dalloway” and “Ulysses,” “Grown Ups 2” unfolds entirely within the span of a single day; in this case, the last day of school in a small Massachusetts town. Like “Ulysses” — though unlike “Mrs. Dalloway” — it features plentiful flatulence, and James Joyce might well have appreciated the neologism “burpsnart,” which describes Kevin James’ character’s ability to burp, sneeze and fart simultaneously. Whether he would have appreciated seeing this trick repeated no less than five times is an enigma for the ages, though the sheer amount of pissing, vomiting, ear picking, crotch sniffing, man-on-dog tongue kissing and belly-button lint eating that the film contains would surely push anyone over the edge.
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The cast is massive — in addition to a cross-section of Sandler’s former “Saturday Night Live” compatriots, Lautner, Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Austin are among the newcomers — and rather than attempt to construct intersecting plotlines that involve all these thesps, the script (by Sandler, Fred Wolf and Tim Herlihy) instead simply doles out a single task for each character to accomplish (ask the girl out, avoid the bully, bond with the long-lost son, etc.), the vast majority of which are forgotten as soon as they’re introduced.
As bad as it is at tying up loose ends, the film is even worse at laying groundwork. In one scene, the central foursome come across a giant tire, and with no attempt at explanation or reasonable comedic setup, Spade is simply thrust inside and sent rolling through town, because that’s what grown men do when they find a giant tire.
There are some mercies, however. Befitting Sandler’s personal reputation as a mensch, most of the actors seem to have had a good time onset. And while Sandler’s films usually feature wall-to-wall product placement, “Grown Ups 2’s” brand-whoring is constrained to a single — albeit seemingly endless — scene set prominently inside a K-Mart. The film also avoids some of the misanthropy and borderline racism that has emerged in so many recent Sandler projects, although a female bodybuilder comes in for some bizarrely elongated and repeated abuse, and never with more wit than the moment in which Maya Rudolph’s character randomly points at her and yells, “She’s got a penis.”
While the film is hardly distinguished by any of its craft elements, it’s never nearly as ugly as it is stupid.