With his “golden age” seeming like a bygone era – Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, I even like The Waterboy – and his brief-but-bold dramatic turns feeling more like cliff notes in his career – Punch Drunk Love, Spanglish – I want to be able to like Adam Sandler again. But with his recent releases under Happy Madison Productions, like Jack and Jill and statutory rape comedy That’s My Boy, my seed of respect for the man remains unfertilised. Appropriately, Grown Ups 2 continues that arrested development.
Sandler’s ‘A-squad’ is a comedy file cabinet: Chris Rock tells the race jokes, David Spade gets the redneck gags, Kevin James stops the film five times to do a burp sneeze fart. The talents of Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello are ignored as the trio is relegated to “Aw… Honey…” housewife roles. The script contains some decent lines, but the leads dampen the delivery with a noticeable lack of energy. It’s telling when the most charismatic comedic performance comes from Taylor Lautner, who embraces his alpha fraternity douchebag role with some recognisable effort.
But the disturbing aspects of Grown Ups 2 are its mild attempts at sentimentality that seek to promote family values. While the film idolises how loved ones come first, it backs that up with Sandler’s character using physical violence as the most appropriate solution in situations that can be easily talked out of. In a comedy full of poorly executed humour, it makes the entire movie valueless.