Apparently the world demanded another family-friendly version of “The Hangover,” one that combined scatological comedy with smarmy sentimentality. So Adam Sandler has obliged with this sequel to 2010’s “Grown Ups.” I guess the world should be grateful that he didn’t make a sequel to “Jack and Jill” (2011).
Since last seen on the screen, super-agent Lenny Feder (Sandler), waxing nostalgic after a visit to his rustic hometown in New England and missing his childhood pals, has given up his fast-lane Hollywood life and moved back to the old neighborhood with his wife, Roxanne (Salma Hayek), and three kids. Besides, how else can a film open with a rampant deer peeing on someone unless it takes place in the country? As someone once said, there’s no place like home.
The gang is all here, except for the one played by Rob Schneider, absent for some reason, not that I’m complaining. There’s Eric (Kevin James), who likes to show off his favorite trick the “burp snart,” in which he belches, sneezes, and emits flatus simultaneously. There’s Kurt, who, despite being played by Chris Rock, does nothing funny. And Marcus (David Spade), that old horn dog, has his life turned upside down when the teenage son he never knew he had suddenly appears. The boy is huge, tattooed, and full of rage and disgust at his father, a feeling easily shared.
But don’t think this is just a rehash. Director Dennis Dugan, an auteur in his own right, shows some coy reflexivity by referring to the original film in a scene in which a police officer, played by Shaquille O’Neal, urinates in a pool, with the expected results. That joke just never gets old, plus it gives new meaning to the term “thin blue line.” Dugan also alludes to that classic town/gown favorite “Breaking Away,” with an obnoxious gang of frat boys taking over the quarry where Lenny and the gang used to swim. This confrontation leads to that comedy favorite, four middle-age guys forced to jump 40 feet into the water, butt-naked, with a gang of drunken, barely clad co-eds looking on and giggling. Something for the kids.
As it turns out, that last scene illustrates one of the main themes of the film. In the first movie the theme was — well, I don’t recall there being any. Here it’s bullying. How you have to stand up for yourself and sometimes take a beating, if only from snooty film critics. And, also, reconciliation with enemies (except arrogant frat boys), acceptance of fate (like having a fourth kid when you can hardly stand the three you’ve already got), and any other excuse for a joke involving bodily functions, flatulence, or blows to the crotch. Or rowdy wildlife. To paraphrase Chekhov, if a deer sprays urine in the first scene, it has to be used in some other puerile fashion before the end of the movie.
Finally, “Grown Ups 2” offers a bittersweet paean to childhood and youth and their inevitable loss. Take the case of Adam Sandler. Didn’t he use to be funny? Like with the “Hanukkah Song”? Didn’t he once appear in good movies, like “Punch-Drunk Love” and even, comparatively, “The Wedding Singer”? When did he become a factory churning out terrible comedies? I guess that’s what happens when you grow up.