Hall of Fame Speech #18: Grown Ups 2

Brief note before we start: last July we got together yet again and worked out a fourth class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly a decade since we started BMT and as usual the films from more than five years ago might just deserve a rewatch, a reassessment, and a recap. The previews and speeches will be released leading up to the seventh (ninth?) Smaddies Baddies for the five films chosen. For this inductee we went looking for a bad movie for the people. A bad movie that the whole family could enjoy. And maybe, we’ll also get an extended commercial for KFC, or Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Hooters thrown in for good measure! That’s right, we are rewatching Grown Ups 2. The first Sandler inductee, and honestly very likely the only one. Just consider this a lifetime achievement award for his work in the 2000s. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Grown Ups 2

After releasing Funny People the Adam Sandler led films took quite the turn. Grown Ups, Just Go With It, Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, and then Sandler’s first sequel in Grown Ups 2. We have, obviously, seen all of these for BMT. Jack and Jill we watched in theaters in a proto-BMT Live! So from the smorgasbord of BMT delight, how does one choose just one to induct into the Hall of Fame? In a way it just has to be treated as a lifetime achievement award for Sandler and Co. And what an achievement Grown Ups 2 is. We hated Grown Ups when we watched it, and then watched Grown Ups 2 in theaters and it appears to have melted our brain. The email concerning it is basically just incomprehensible gibberish, flabbergasted that they could make the original worse! But … maybe we were wrong. Let’s get into it.

It has been five years since we watched the film. But what do I remember?

  • The setting. I remember being supremely confused about the setting in both films as a matter of fact. It seemed to me that the first film was set in New Hampshire, but in reality it was likely set in Connecticut. The second film is more explicitly set in Connecticut (via license plates), but it is never really mentioned either. It blew my mind, and probably is part of the reason we are so obsessed with settings in general.
  • The opening to the film, obviously. A cartoon deer wreaks havoc in the Sandler household. It genuinely looks like a cartoon complete with cartoon reaction shots. It’s weird.
  • There is a whole underlying message of getting out from under your oppressive wife which isn’t the greatest A-story.
  • The side cast is crazy including Shaq in a large role, and Taylor Lautner very impressively just doing flips in the background and later doing a flip out of a car! I don’t know how much of that was camera tickery, but it looks real to me and looks crazy cool.
  • The entire film culminates in a giant 80s themed costume party at Sandler’s mansion, and then in a giant brawl. Much like in all late-Sandler films, the solution to life’s problems is to punch people in the face.

So which do I think is the most important? I think it is going to be the last one. The first one is more important in Blended, for example, where the setting is the perfect example of Sandler setting up a film to just be a vacation. The fourth is common to all Sandler films. There is often a who’s who of cameos and bit parts featuring ESPN personalities and former athletes. But the speciality of Grown Ups 2 is just the plotlessness. The entire film is about throwing a party. Why are they throwing a party? *Shrug* It’s the first day of summer. Let’s make it 80s themed on the day of said party, and yet everyone is in amazing 80s outfits hours later. And finally, we don’t really know how to end this film so … let’s have everyone brawl and then go to bed. The End. It is an astonishing failure of imagination that, I think, pushes this film over the top.

How did the rewatch go? Well the real question is how did both rewatches go. I naturally watched both the original Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2, and the differences are astonishing. In the first you have a group of (clearly) friends ripping into each other during a lake house vacation. The ribbing is brutal complete with forlorn reaction shots from those offended. “You’re fat haha” reaction shot of Kevin James looking sad, “you’re whipped haha” reaction shot of Chris Rock looking sad, “you’re short haha” reaction shots of David Spade and Rob Schnieder looking sad. The plotless film is only saved from being boring by the brutality of its mean-spirited humor, and ultimately that it is, at heart, a genuinely sweet film. The second film on the other hand is a cartoon (both literally with the introductory deer, and figuratively with its theme-park-esque Connecticut setting). It exchanges mean-spiritedness for an expanded cast of characters constantly tripping over themselves for screen time. It looks at the original’s plotlessness and asks “But wait … can we have less plot though?” The plot of the film is simple: we are throwing a party. Let’s film a commercial for KMart, and then throw a big bash where all of the characters in the film can josh around for a bit.

It’s been just long enough since we’ve watched a Sandler film of this era that I almost forgot why they were so disliked by critics. There is no lazier film than Grown Ups 2. It may not have even had a script. It’s performances are so undemanding that Shaquille O’Neal seamlessly enters the cast in a major (nearly a top ten credited) role without notice. There is an extended sequence during the film where it is revealed that all of the gang’s children are secret prodigies of some kind. Kevin James’s kid is a musical prodigy, Chris Rock’s daughter is a beautiful singer, and Adam Sandler’s son can smash through 50 yard field goals. All of them say the same thing “Wow, that’s amazing, where did you learn to do that?” *Shrug*. Absolute trash. A borderline parody of how actual meaningful comedies are written. I could go on all day about this film.

To be perfectly honest, this is a BMT film because in a way Sandler has taught me the most about movie making. The product placement, just wanting to hang out with friends, improvisational comedy, and pure undistilled laziness of the whole affair (he’s done it at least five times at this point) is what bad movies typically only aspire to be. While watching this film I distinctly remember thinking “My god, I’m transcending this film! I am all that is man, the alpha and omega. I can see the seams in this movie, and the blinding light that peers forth is glorious!” … You think I’m kidding? That is literally what I thought at the time. Sandler transcended bad movies. He became a genre himself. And this was the pinnacle of that genre. Others may say Jack and Jill, but I say nay! Grown Ups 2, in its glorious messiness, is when Sandler mastered the art of making a bad movie. Welcome to the Hall of Fame Grown Ups 2.

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