'Grown Ups 2'
Director: Dennis Dugan
Stars: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock
1 (out of 5) Globe
Before the opening credits of “Grown Ups 2,” the witless sequel to Adam Sandler’s 2010 blockbuster exercise in indolence, a large, laughably unconvincing CGI deer urinates in the star’s face. Tragically, this is about as clever as it gets.
Lacking anything remotely resembling a conventional story, this ramshackle contraption is just a loosely connected collection of lame sketches taking place over the course of one very long day. After the precious few events that occurred in the previous picture, Sandler’s overpaid, underworked executive-or-something has left New York City and moved his family back to his fictional Western Massachusetts hometown. Clowning around with pals Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and some incongruously attractive spouses, Sandler and company go to K-Mart for a protracted product placement commercial in the morning. Later that night they throw a 1980s-themed costume party. That’s all that passes for a plot here, folks.
Laziness wafts from the screen like a foul odor, with recurring routines, such as these middle aged buddies being amazed at James’ ability to belch, sneeze and break wind all at the same time. (They call it “burp snarting” and attempt to emulate him, with messy results.) A few delicate wisps of story strands emerge here and there, like Spade discovering that he has an oversized, thuggish teenage son with equally awful hair, and Rock’s kid having to take a driver’s test from Steve Buscemi’s prissy instructor. What tremendous suspense.
There’s a tiny bit of ado about Sandler finally working up the nerve to confront a bully (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin) who tormented him in grade school, and some local frat boys (led by Taylor Lautner and Milo Ventimigilia) shove everybody around for no reason other than to get their comeuppance in the final reel. Most of what could charitably be called “jokes” involve homosexual panic, as Nick Swardson’s pill-addicted school bus driver finds the chemically-induced fortitude to come out of the closet while everybody else can’t stop pointing out that Spade’s new girlfriend is a transvestite.
Adam Sandler is an undeniably gifted, naturally abrasive comic continually held back by his own target audience. Every time he branches out and delivers something daring, like Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant “Punch Drunk Love,” Judd Apatow’s lacerating “Funny People” or even last year’s screamingly obscene “That’s My Boy,” the resulting box office rejection sends him scurrying back to these hacky work release programs for otherwise unemployable “Saturday Night Live” veterans. “Grown Ups 2” is abysmal.