It's become a bittersweet memory. The summer of 1996, that transitional time between junior high and high school. Hanging out with my cousins and older brother inside my uncle's beach house in Jersey. Crowding around the TV to watch Billy Madison for the first time, on VHS. Laughing so much that we had no choice but to rewind and start it over from the beginning. Telling myself that Adam Sandler is the funniest man alive. Then, one year later, reciting choice Billy Madison dialogue (my personal favorite being, "Ta-ta-ta-ta-today, Junior!") while waiting on line to catch Sandler's latest moron-wins-them-over comedy, Happy Gilmore, at the local North Jersey theater.
In Grown Ups 2, there are no legitimate jokes—as in, you know, anything that will make you laugh. Instead, there's just foulness.
Most people my age cite Anchorman or The 40 Year Old Virgin as the funniest movie ever made, but not me. It's Billy Madison, all the way. In recent years, though, it's been tough to extend any such praise to an Adam Sandler property, because, well, the guy's movies suck nowadays. Still, I've been holding out hope that, one day soon, Sandler will make a film that recaptures the charming dimness of his earlier work. Last year, the too forcibly naughty That's My Boy left me wondering if I should give up that longing; Grown Ups 2, unfortunately, has made the decision for me. Adam Sandler is now, pun intended, a joke.
In Grown Ups 2, there are no legitimate jokes—as in, you know, anything that will make you laugh. Instead, there's just foulness. Rancid, insulting foulness.
To the film's credit, it does have one thing going for it: There have never been more appropriate bookending moments in a movie. Grown Ups 2 begins with urine and ends with flatulence. For a film that spends 100 minutes pissing and shitting all over its (sucker) audience's hard-earned money, it doesn't get more perfect than that.
The opening scene of this abhorrent sequel to the lazily written and lazily performed 2010 blockbuster comedy Grown Ups finds star/producer/primary culprit Adam Sandler waking up in bed, alongside his gorgeous, way-out-of-his-league wife (played by Salma Hayek), to the sight of a deer casually hanging out in his room. Once Hayek's character wakes up and screams in frightened surprise, the deer emits a geyser of piss all over Sandler's face. And then it runs around their house, finds Sandler's oldest son in the shower, and pisses all over him. The scene serves no purpose, of course, other than to remind viewers that they're watching a Happy Madison Productions release, and, oh yes, there will be gags about bodily emissions. Just as there will be jokes about farting, or, to be more specific, something called a "Burpsnart," explained by Kevin James' character as the trifecta of burping, sneezing, and farting, all in succession, basically one motion. James gets off three solid burpsnarts in the film, but the last one's saved for Grown Ups 2's head honcho, the Sandman, who finally achieves his dream of burpsnarting right before he's about to pork his pregnant wife. Roll credits. That's all, folks.
Before any critics were abused by Grown Ups 2 this week, Sandler's worst film to date was, indeed, the first Grown Ups—compared to its rancid, exceptionally bad sequel, Grown Ups is Airplane!. Yes, it's much worse than Jack and Jill (2012), in which Sandler played man/woman twin siblings and, as a hideous female, flirted with a shameful, paycheck-chasing Al Pacino. Since the disappointing box office returns of the mostly impressive 2009 dramedy Funny People, a rare example of Sandler challenging himself as an actor, he's been on a downward roll, crapping out one underwhelming comedy after another: Grown Ups, Just Go With It (2011), Jack and Jill, That's My Boy (2012), and now Grown Ups 2. And don't forget the equally rotten films he's produced over the four years: Zookeeper (2011), the one where buddy Kevin James gets hit in the crotch whenever he's not talking to animals, and Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, the singularly disgraceful train wreck starring Sandler's modern-day Memphis Bleek, the screen-tainter Nick Swardson. This is a reign of terror.
With Grown Ups 2, a film so uninspired, so disrespectful towards its audience, and filled with the lowest-brow toilet humor and homophobia imaginable, it's official: Adam Sandler either hates his fans or has lost all sense of dignity.
Of course, he's never been a shining example of professional maturity—when going on late night talk shows, he's always dressed like a frat guy on his way to the dining hall, and when on red carpets for his movie's premieres, he's dressed as if he's a frat guy heading back to his dorm room after visiting the dining hall. He's done very few interviews for print media, which can be interpreted as an acknowledgement of his brand's minimal use for press (Sandler's loyal supporters don't need to read a profile about his home life to convince themselves to buy a ticket for You Don't Mess with the Zohan), or a more straightforward indifference to publicity, or a mixture of both.
In his movies, the first sign of Sandler's lack of fucks given towards his raunch-loving minions came with Grown Ups in 2010—plotless and devoid of any creativity or gumption, Sandler's "dream team" collaboration with old pals Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Chris Rock is little more than an excuse for overpaid friends to spend time together, call upon Sandler's go-to director for all things lackadaisical, Dennis Dugan, to shoot their antics, and somehow convince a major studio to release it theatrically. Sandler knew that his fans would migrate to multiplexes in droves to see him riff with James, Spade, and Rock (forget Schneider, because, come on, no one on Earth loves that guy); thus, he and co-screenwriter Fred Wolf exerted zero mental power while penning the script, nor did he or his co-stars try to push themselves comedically. And since the cinema gods hate us all, Grown Ups grossed a whopping $271 million, a disheartening number that makes it easy to overlook the fact that the film cost somewhere between $70-$80 million to produce. Seriously. None of that money is on the screen—Sandler and company might as well have wiped their asses with it for 90 minutes. District 9 only cost $30 million!
Grown Ups 2 also cost around $80 million. And what do we get for all of those dollars spent? In addition to that shitty-looking CGI deer and its gallons of piss, there's a non-sensical sequence where David Spade's character rapidly rolls all over town while stuck inside a massive tire, a stupid, time-wasting bit that ends with Spade projectile vomiting out of said tire. There's also Sandler movie regular Steve Buscemi (don't ask) dressed as Flavor Flav and attending a ridiculous '80s-themed party where, amongst other on-the-nose visual jokes, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is dressed as The Terminator, Chris Rock is Prince, and Sandler's eldest son has on the pink button-up, no pants look of Tom Cruise in Risky Business. The biggest affront to an $80 mil price tag, though? Paying Nick Swardson to do anything. In Grown Ups 2, he once again plays a character who's present only to supply embarrassing jokes about gay men (see, or don't see: A Haunted House). His punch lines involve either homophobia ("I ate a banana…with my butt.") or defecation (in one scene, while on drugs, he drops a deuce into a department store's sale floor toilet).
In one of Grown Ups 2 inexplicably positive reviews, Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman writes this compliment: "In certain ways, Grown Ups 2 marks a return to classically Sandlerian infantile anarchy." Clearly, Mr. Gleiberman is trying to remove Armond White from his King Contrarian throne. To say that Grown Ups 2 bears even the faintest resemblance to dumb-fun classics like Billy Madison (1995) and Happy Gilmore (1996), or slightly more mature efforts like The Wedding Singer (1998) and Big Daddy (1999), is absurd.
Though neither Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore is what anyone would deem "intelligent," both films work because there's obvious thought put into the material—no, it doesn't take a MENSA brainiac to make jokes about kids peeing their pants or wannabe hockey players roughing up prim golfers, but it does take a gifted comedian to elevate that kind of idiocy to the level of the sublime. There's none of that thoughtful dumbness in a single frame of Grown Ups 2. In Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, Sandler and his acting buddies seem to be laughing with you; in Grown Ups 2, they're all laughing at you, fanning themselves with stacks of Benjamins as you watch them burpsnart.
Those who willingly pay to see the once-enjoyable Adam Sandler receive a golden shower from a deer and co-star Colin Quinn poop out streams of chocolate ice cream in Grown Ups 2 don't deserve another Billy Madison, let alone another top-shelf Sandler film like writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's artsy rom-com Punch-Drunk Love. Because of them, we'll be assaulted by Grown Ups 3 in 2015, and lord only knows what Sandler will encourage Nick Swardson to do in that one. I, for one, however, refuse to invest any money into another Adam Sandler movie unless it's directed by a someone like PTA, a filmmaker who won't let Hollywood's clown prince of laziness get away with betraying his most discerning fans.
I wonder if I'll even be able to laugh at Billy Madison's "Pig Latin" scenes anymore? Or welcome the company of that imaginary penguin ever again? Instead of Veronica Vaughn flirting with Billy Boy, I'll see Nick Swardson's Grown Ups 2 character dropping turds into a prop toilet. By turning into the film industry's most offensively dire multi-threat, Adam Sandler has killed a part of my childhood. Not that he'd care, though—right now, somewhere in California, he's probably sitting on his mansion's ornate toilet, basketball shorts around his ankles, laptop resting on his legs. Churning out a new screenplay while daydreaming about dinner. Knowing that his latest bit of typing will eventually get green-lit as an $80 million feature film co-starring Nick Swardson.
Me? I'm watching him sucker-punch Bob Barker, reminiscing about the good old days. Accepting that my one-time favorite Hollywood funnyman is no more.
RELATED: 10 Ways Adam Sandler Can Get His Swag Back
RELATED: A One-Sided Conversation with Johnny Depp About The Lone Ranger (An Angry Fan's Review)
RELATED: The 50 Funniest Movies of All Time
RELATED: The Worst Movies of 2013 (So Far)
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)