Let's cut to the chase.
Grown Ups 2 is not a good movie. It is lazy, indulgent, and often poorly acted. But the only reason that it will not be completely trashed in this review is that it fulfilled the main objective of any comedy: it made me laugh.
Grown Ups 2 is the first sequel Adam Sandler has made. It is a follow up to his successful ensemble nostalgia piece Grown Ups. In that movie, Sandler's character and his childhood friends return to their hometown for the funeral of their old grade school basketball coach. While there, they try to instill the values and joys they experienced to their children.
The sequel takes place a few years after and all of the main characters have inexplicably all moved to that small town. It feels like Sandler wanted to skip all of the messy logical exposition involving things like his world renowned designer wife (Salma Hayek) leaving her fashion empire to run an empty boutique in New England. The movie instead begins with a dear peeing into Adam Sandler's mouth.
The whole movie takes place over the course of a single day in this town. There is no real plot to speak of. Some kind of story is cobbled together, but it is merely a shakey frame around which to put the characters into funny situations. Kevin James regresses into a mama's boy, David Spade has a hoodlum son, Chris Rock's wife forgets his anniversary, etc. By the way, you'll notice I haven't been using any of the character names. The reason for that is that there really isn't much acting in this movie. You can feel the guys on set joking around and then just continuing on as they yell "action."
The themes are a little different in this movie, with the main characters having children in full blown adolescence. This causes them to reflect on their own lives as teenagers and respond to their children accordingly. This backsliding regression is actually kind of fun to watch. And it is fun to watch the movie make fun of the idiotic self-esteem movement with children and hippie ideas about education.
And that is the maddening thing about this movie. It has great potential and wastes it. And I want to hate it, but I caught myself laughing more than I wanted. To be sure, most of the jokes are lazy scatological gags. But done right, those can be comedy gold. And sometimes the humor of watching these boy-men make fun of their age is truly funny. I tried not to laugh as David Spade went rolling down the hill in a giant tire, and yet the I couldn't help it. But I would still say that more often than not, the jokes fall flat, as they did in another indulgent comedy, The Heat, from earlier this year.
The worst is the addition of Nick Swarsdon. I don't know why he is constantly being elevated. I find him incredibly off-putting, more so that anyone else on the cast (and that includes a movie with David Spade). But there are some truly fun moments of stunt casting, from Taylor Launtner to Jon Lovitz.
And I would not recommend this movie for children. There is way too much oggling and innuendo for me to be comfortable showing someone younger. Sandler is capable of making movies that are family friendly, but it feels like Grown Ups 2 cannot decide how adult of juvenille it wants to be.
The movie coasts on the charm of its actors. If you have great affection for them (a trait Sandler has cultivated with his audience) then you will enjoy this movie, but not as much as his other movies.
2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars