Comedies don’t generally sequel well, at least in part because more often than not they tend to be situation movies as opposed to character movies, and any follow-up is likely to be overly contrived. “Grown Ups 2” is probably the exception that proves that rule, but the fact remains: this is a sequel that’s if anything funnier than the original. It’s also basically a shock comedy squeaking in with a PG-13 rating.
Executive producer Adam Sandler returns as Larry Feder, who has given up his lucrative career as a Hollywood agent and moved his family back to his old hometown. In the original, Larry had come home for the funeral of his old CYO basketball coach. This time, there’s no contrivance to reunite him with his old high school friends. They’re just there (other than Rob Schneider, whose absence is not explained). In other words, Sandler and co-writers Fred Wolf (“Grown Ups”) and Tim Herlihy (“Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Little Nicky”) have taken a situation movie and turned it into a character movie.
On the last day of school, stay-at-home dad Larry finds that Nick the school bus driver (Nick Swardson) is depressed and over-medicated and shouldn’t be driving. Larry takes over driving the bus (one has to believe driving a bus is probably not something you can just adjust to on the spur of the moment, but this is a movie, after all), and intervenes when a hulking bully is terrorizing his son. Coming along for the ride is Chris Rock as Kurt, now working as a cable repairman who’s stalling going to his one and only appointment for the day, which is sometime between eight and four. Along with Kevin James and David Spade, also returning, a loosely connected series of misadventures ensues, while the guys deal with Larry’s wife, again by played by Salma Hayek, wanting another baby, while Spade finds out he already has one...a hulking, tattooed Thor clone named Braden (Alexander Ludwig) who terrifies him.
As both children and adults (the males, not their wives) all sneak off to play hooky, the fathers run afoul of a group of college frat Nazis who have taken over the local swimming hole. Try to ignore the fact that if elementary schools are just letting out, these idiots should have been done with school over a month ago. Taylor Lautner of “Twilight” fame makes a rebound cameo here as the leader of the lamebrains, and is funnier here than he was in “Abduction,” which didn’t actually mean to be a comedy.
This silliness all leads up to an even sillier climactic party, during which the proceedings threaten to degenerate into an eighties-themed version of “Project X.” Thankfully, things never get that bad. As with “Grown Ups,” you can’t claim a lot of smarts for this movie, but then Adam Sandler has never shown the inclination to challenge Woody Allen on the intellectual urban comedy turf. He and longtime director Dennis Dugan (making his 8th Sandler movie here) are content to deliver low-brow laughs on cue, and that they do pretty consistently.
“Grown Ups 2” has the general sensibility of a shock comedy, toned down as little as possible to get a PG-13 rating. Parents should not be deceived. While often good-hearted, this movie is not especially wholesome. “Grown Ups 2,” like its predecessor, however, wants to appear family-friendly, which it does with the following provisos:
1. These filmmakers believe most bodily functions are funny, and therefore pee, poop and puke humor is to be expected. This includes a lot more deer urination than you see in the trailers.
2. The filmmakers are predominantly male with adolescent sensibilities, and are entranced with breasts. There are a lot of breasts in this movie. No, not naked ones. That would void the Holy Grail PG-13 rating. But there’s more cleavage on display in “Grown Ups 2” than the average Miss America bathing suit competition, and from the camera angles used you have to believe 3D was at least contemplated.
3. As with “Grown Ups,” much of the humor revolves around grown men acting like children. Fortunately, less of it has to do with them insulting each other this time around. There is a lot of slapstick, much of it very well-executed, including a few “Jackass” type stunts that would probably get people killed in the real world.
The guys actually behave a little less obnoxiously towards each other this time, and Sandler and Spade in particular actually get to show a little range and character development. The same cannot be said for Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello as Sandler, Rock and James’ wives, who have nonetheless all played ball with the cleavage clauses in their contracts. That’s about it for dimension with them. They do behave less shrewishly however, and Ms. Hayek has never looked better.
The town and the plot are riddled with relatively random characters played by an all-star rogues gallery, who pop up like they’re in a video game, and disappear almost as suddenly. Shaquille O’Neal is only one out of a host of recognizable cameos and supporting performers, which includes Steve Buscemi, Georgia Engel, Jon Lovitz, Steve Austin, Milo Ventimiglia, Andy Samberg and The J. Geils Band. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son Patrick is one of the frat Nazis.
Not that they’re looking for Academy Awards or were striving for technical excellence, “Grown Ups 2” is a reasonably workmanlike production. It also does not, like so many modern comedies, suffer from the problem of all the good jokes being in the trailer. There are actually some jokes in the trailer that are not in the final cut of the movie. They might be in the “deleted scenes” section of the DVD/Blu-Ray release, and audiences who wait will not have any reason to hate themselves.
"Grown Ups 2" is now showing at Capital District movie theatres including: The Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, The Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13, The Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, The Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland in Schenectady, The Rotterdam Square Cinema and The Malta Drive-In on route 9 in Malta.