Grown Ups? How 'bout Grown Old?
All of us grow old eventually—even those who never really grow up. Consider (again) the case of Lenny Feder, who spent his childhood in a small New England town, with school chums Eric, Kurt and Marcus. Fast-forward 25 years or so, and the four amigos still live in the same quaint village. They're still good friends. They still laugh at the very same jokes. But while the not-so-fearsome foursome manages to keep a toe or two planted in the past, the rest of their bods have been ushered—rather unceremoniously, in some cases—into the 21st century.
Oh, they're not old old yet: None are checking out retirement homes, and all have most of their teeth. But they're increasingly aware that they're not the same young bucks they once were. Lenny's rich from a stint in Hollywood, it seems. Eric owns a body shop. Kurt works for the cable company. And Marcus … well, I'm not really sure what Marcus does, but then he doesn't either, so no matter. Three are married. All have kids. Instead of downing beers at 2 a.m., they're toasting juice boxes at 8 p.m. Instead of rocking out to the latest pop-metal band, they're rocking their children to sleep.
And that's just fine, really. Forget that big midlife crisis. These guys are just plagued by middle-age heartburn.
Or so it was, until the four pals run afoul of a bevy of attitude-laden frat brothers. Or before Marcus' long-lost, hitherto-unknown punk of a son came to visit. Or before Lenny's beautiful wife, Roxanne, starts asking him if he'd like to have another baby. Or before Eric's daughter goes to school wearing what appear to be Christmas lights on her boots. Or before—
No, wait. There's still no crisis here to speak of. But these plot points, and about two-dozen others, are enough of an excuse to make a movie, right? At least for Adam Sandler they are.
Adulthood ain't always easy, what with its emphasis on jobs and mortgages and parenting and more-or-less mature relationships. But it can be deeply rewarding. And while Grown Ups 2 is hardly a guidebook on how to be a good grown-up, neither is it devoid of merit:
Lenny, Eric and Kurt are all loving husbands married to loving wives. No one's hovering on the brink of divorce, and the relational frustrations we see all feel pretty normal. A wife forgets a 20th anniversary, for instance. And a hubby dotes on his mother a little too much. There's disagreement about whether to have another baby. So the movie honors the institution even as it acknowledges its day-to-day frictions.
Most of these guys love being fathers as much as they do being husbands. Lenny, for instance, teaches his son to kick a football. And even as a party rages in his backyard, Lenny tucks his daughter into bed, tells her (an admittedly odd) bedtime story and stays with her until she seems to be asleep. At dinner, he tells his family that this is his favorite part of the day—when he gets to spend time with his "four best friends."
[Spoiler Warning] Lenny loves his tight family unit so much that he's disinclined to add another member to the brood—until Roxanne announces that she's pregnant. Then he does an about-face and talks directly to the unborn child: "I just want to tell you welcome to the family, and I love you very, very much."
A former childhood bully allows Lenny to cow him into submission—helping Lenny teach his son a lesson about the importance of standing up for yourself. As the bully walks off and everyone cheers for Lenny, the big dude's wife tells him, "That was the manliest thing you've ever done."
Ogling is a Sandler mainstay, and it's on full display in this sequel. A beach party is populated by women in bikinis and other skin-revealing outfits. Most of the town's men drool over a ballet instructor (whose curve-hugging outfit exhibits much cleavage) as she suggestively dances with her young pupils. A janitor convinces women to exercise for him so he can watch them jiggle. Women eye the new aerobics instructor—Kurt's wife jokingly asking if she can put her tongue down his throat.
That instructor, for the record, tells them he's gay, much to their disappointment. And Nick, an addled bus driver, later makes passes at the instructor, eventually stripping down to his underwear (which has a urine stain on it) for him. The other man isn't interested and moves away, and Nick hugs and kisses a dog by mistake. We hear him reference simulating gay sex.
Married couple Sally and Eric tell each other that it's fine to "look" at other people as long as it goes no further. Sally tries to give her hubby a "treat," driving into a car wash serviced by cheerleaders—whom she asks to make their own wash "extra soapy." The female cheerleaders scrub down another car, though, leaving Eric and Sally's vehicle in the care of a bevy of male cheerleaders wearing short shorts. The guys rub up against the car as they wash it; one seductively licking soap from the windshield and the camera zooms in for close-ups of their groins.
A picture seems to show part of a woman's breast. We see a teen guy in the shower. A policeman runs around in a jock strap. Lenny and his pals are forced to dive off a cliff nude, and we see them from a distance, mostly from the side and rear, but not always. Lenny's teen son says he's "scarred" by surreptitiously watching, rudely exclaiming over seeing his father's "d--k."
Comments are made about bulging genitals, erections, conceptions, accidental penetrations, former sexual exploits, the questionable gender of a female body builder and the "blinding" results of teenage masturbation. Roxanne literally kicks a flirtatious woman away from Lenny.
The movie culminates in a huge rumble between frat brothers and "townies." It's a slapstick free-for-all, filled with hits and kicks and choke holds. People are pegged with beer kegs, stomped on and given noogies. A child bites someone's ankle. A deer attacks a guy and seems to chew on his crotch.
Nick, drugged for much of the movie, is dropped to a bus floor after being hung upside-down, then slides down the aisle to hit his head on the rear wall of the vehicle. He's also thwacked off the top of the bus by a tree branch. He and others are knocked down by rapidly expanding rafts. Marcus rolls down a street in a giant tire, hitting things and getting hit.
Less goofy is Marcus' son intimidating other kids and talking about his desire to hurt his dad. He flicks a switchblade menacingly and cuts the head off a teddy bear.
A man pepper sprays himself. Guns are fired in the air. A girl is knocked out by a flying ice cream scoop. A gym teacher knocks a guy off the bleachers with a ball. The four guys, when they dive off the cliff, hurt themselves as they slap into the water. Lenny, while teaching his younger son to kick a football, falls on top of the boy and breaks his leg.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Lots of college kids drink to the point of serious intoxication. Two high schoolers are mistaken for collegians and are handed beers. (They dump the alcohol but pretend to be inebriated to fit in.) Adults drink heavily at Lenny's party. Lenny laments that Roxanne doesn't like him getting drunk in front of the kids. The guys play quarters.
Someone's wrongly accused of driving under the influence—by a driving instructor who drinks a beer while grading the test. Soap opera characters drink champagne. A doctor says that the best stress reliever is Jack Daniel's, taking a swig out of a flask for emphasis.
Lenny is tempted to give his daughter Nyquil just to make her sleep. One of the guys guzzles a bunch of bottles of 5-Hour Energy. Nick, as mentioned, is on some sort of medication which leaves him feeling confused and acting erratically.
Other Negative Elements
A startled deer sprays quantities of urine on people. Chocolate ice cream stands in for excrement in an extended visual gag. A police officer urinates in a pool, and swimmers flee from the resulting blue urine. In a department store, Nick strips down to his underwear and hops in a display bed. When he's told to wake up, he staggers over to the bathroom department, pulls down his boxers to use the "facilities."
When Nick falls asleep on the bus, kids stuff Cheetos up his nose—one of which he removes and eats. Eric has a "talent" (much envied by his friends) for burping, sneezing and passing gas, all in a row. Several diaper-related jokes are told. Characters vomit. A guy picks something out of his belly button and eats it.
Eric secretly watches a soap opera with his mother behind his wife's back, as if he was cheating on her. Fathers exhibit (many) dubious parenting techniques. Lenny's encouragement of his younger boy to stand up for himself includes the advice to fight. Sally tries to boost her son's confidence by telling him he's getting the right answers on flash cards (when in reality they're totally off). Property is vandalized.
Grown Ups 2 is a rumination on the joys and indignities of getting older, with the emphasis on the joys. It's something that is a rarity in the entertainment industry, where it seems the only people who matter are between the ages of 18 and 25.
Grown Ups 2, just like Grown Ups, is a rumination on maturity, then. Adam Sandler and his quirky cohorts seem to be telling us that getting older isn't all that bad. He and his pals reject the posing and posturing of the youthful frat boys and embrace their new positions in life—even if they come with a little more gut and a little less hair.
The irony, of course, is that few movies with Sandler's name attached to them actually feel very mature, and this one's hardly an exception. He's always been a master of the sort of comedy most people have outgrown by the time they're 14, maybe sooner. And for all his obvious love of wife and family and adulthood, the guy's a big child at heart. Not an "innocent and carefree" child, but rather a child who thinks passing gas in front of Grandma is the height of sophisticated hilarity.
Grown Ups 2 is a silly, raunchy, reckless mess of a movie—a conflicted blend of sweet sentiment and sour humor. As I wrote at the outset, this movie isn't so much about growing up as it is growing old—and this shtick is growing very old indeed.