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Grown Ups 2: Sandler’s buddies comedy is sincere, if not a little lazy and indifferent

Salma Hayek stars as Roxanne Chase-Feder and Adam Sandler stars as Lenny Feder in Grown Ups 2.

2 out of 4 stars

Title
Grown Ups 2
Written by
Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, Fred Wolf
Directed by
Dennis Dugan
Starring
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Salma Hayek
Genre
Comedy
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2013

The 1980s have their revenge in Grown Ups 2: The last half hour of Dennis Dugan's comedy takes place at a costume party where the entire cast is decked out in full Reagan-era regalia, from Hall and Oates and Boy George to Flava Flav and the Terminator. The spectacle of so many old-school icons locked in a no-holds barred battle royale feels torn straight from Adam Sandler's subconscious, and Grown Ups 2 eventually reveals itself as a desperate exercise in nostalgia. It's a Hot Tub Time Machine of a movie that allows its producer-writer-star to project himself back into his glory days: It's no coincidence that Sandler's character is dressed up as Bruce Springsteen.

Like its predecessor, Grown Ups 2 is proudly retrograde, both in its relentless deluge of toilet humour and the way it bear-hugs some good old-fashioned conservative values. As the film opens, Sandler's Lenny Feder has moved from Hollywood back to his heartland hometown, where, it's implied, people are kind and decent and hard-working – except for the privileged, lily-white college kids (led by a self-mocking Taylor Lautner) who serve as the film's de facto villains.

Not that there is much at stake here: In lieu of a plot, we get a series of loose, barely connected vignettes where Lenny and his lifelong pals (played, as in Grown Ups, by real-life besties Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade) clown around and reflect on the mixed blessings of middle age while their kids go through some middle-class rites of passage: first beers, first kisses and final reckonings with high-school bullies.

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There's something fascinating about the tension between Sandler's bad-boy comic instincts and his sturdy suburban values, and Grown Ups 2 is at the very least a work of sincerity. But the relaxed vibe only exacerbates the laziness of Dennis Dugan's direction – there isn't a single well-staged gag in the entire movie – and the indifference becomes wearying. None of the stars are trying very hard, and so the most memorable presences are the cameos: If nothing else, Grown Ups 2 will go down as the only film in history to find room for Steve Buscemi alongside "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

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